Backlash prompts U-turns

English clubs give red card to European Super League

Fans were furious.

Just days after it was announced, the controversial European Super League looks a non-starter after the “big 6” English Premier League clubs withdrew from the competition.

Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City have all confirmed dramatic U-turns in the wake of global condemnation of the rebel league, with Chelsea set to follow suit.

On Sunday, the six English clubs plus Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Milan, Inter and Juventus were all announced as founding members.

A statement from Manchester United read: “Manchester United will not be participating in the European Super League. We have listened carefully to the reaction from our fans, the UK government and other key stakeholders.

“We remain committed to working with others across the football community to come up with sustainable solutions to the long-term challenges facing the game.”

United’s share price dropped 6.08% to $16.21 by the close of the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday, a dramatic change compared to just hours earlier when shares soared as Wall Street trading started on Monday after news of the Super League broke. The price had climbed to $17.95 on Monday after the plans were published.

The Old Trafford club, currently valued at just over £3bn, ranking them as the fourth most valuable club in the world, were one of the ringleaders behind the proposals. The radical plan, however, cost vice-chairman Ed Woodward his job, with the 49-year-old to step down at the end of the year. He has held the post since 2012.

Liverpool’s official statement read: “Liverpool Football Club can confirm that our involvement in proposed plans to form a European Super League has been discontinued.

“In recent days, the club has received representations from various key stakeholders, both internally and externally, and we would like to thank them for their valuable contributions.”

Director and club legend Kenny Dalglish had earlier urged US owners Fenway Sports Group to “do the right thing” and responded to the news by expressing his relief supporters’ voices had been heard.

Later, the club’s US owner John Henry took to social media to apologise “for the disruption I caused”. In a video message he said: “It goes without saying but should be said that the project put forward was never going to stand without the support of the fans. No-one ever thought differently in England. Over these 48 hours you were very clear that it would not stand. We heard you. I heard you.”

Arsenal’s board of directors wrote an open letter to supporters, including an apology: “The last few days have shown us yet again the depth of feeling our supporters around the world have for this great club and the game we love.

“We needed no reminding of this but the response from supporters in recent days has given us time for further reflection and deep thought. It was never our intention to cause such distress, however when the invitation to join the Super League came, while knowing there were no guarantees, we did not want to be left behind to ensure we protected Arsenal and its future.

“As a result of listening to you and the wider football community over recent days we are withdrawing from the proposed Super League. We made a mistake, and we apologise for it.

“We know it will take time to restore your faith in what we are trying to achieve here at Arsenal but let us be clear that the decision to be part of the Super League was driven by our desire to protect Arsenal, the club you love, and to support the game you love through greater solidarity and financial stability.

Protests by supporters

“Stability is essential for the game to prosper and we will continue to strive to bring the security the game needs to move forward. The system needs to be fixed. We must work together to find solutions which protect the future of the game and harness the extraordinary power football has to get us on the edge of our seats.

“Finally, we know this has been hugely unsettling at the end of what has been an incredibly difficult year for us all. Our aim is always to make the right decisions for this great football club, to protect it for the future and to take us forward. We didn’t make the right decision here, which we fully accept.

“We have heard you. The Arsenal Board.”

Tottenham’s owner Daniel Levy admitted “regret” over the reaction to the scheme.

He told the club website: “We regret the anxiety and upset caused by the ESL proposal. We felt it was important that our club participated in the development of a possible new structure that sought to better ensure financial fair play and financial sustainability whilst delivering significantly increased support for the wider football pyramid,” he said in a statement on the club’s official website.

“We believe that we should never stand still and that the sport should constantly review competitions and governance to ensure the game we all love continues to evolve and excite fans around the world.

“We should like to thank all those supporters who presented their considered opinions.”

Manchester City were the first of the rebel clubs to official confirm their withdrawal with a brief statement which said: “Manchester City Football Club can confirm that it has formally enacted the procedures to withdraw from the group developing plans for a European Super League.”

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