European Super League plan collapses as UK, French, German clubs withdraw (updated)

LONDON, 21 April 2021:

All six of the Premier League clubs set to form part of the proposed European Super League said overnight they were withdrawing from the project.

The first to make it official was Manchester City, though their announcement came after Chelsea management made it known the Blues were not going forward with the Super League initiative.

“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.”

In the space of a few hours Tuesday night, Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur did likewise – essentially writing the epitaph of a plan that was formally launched just 48 hours earlier.

The plan for the Super League envisioned 15 permanent members and five rotating slots to be filled through qualifiers, but only 12 clubs were named in Sunday’s presentation.

Several other top European sides, including Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich, rejected invitations to join.

Spain’s Atlético de Madrid and Italy’s Inter Milan became the latest clubs to quit the project today – leaving behind Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan and Juventus.

“Atlético de Madrid took the decision on Monday to join the project due to circumstances that no longer exist today,” the club, which is currently top of LaLiga, said in a brief statement.

“For the club, harmony between all the groups that make up the Red & White family, especially our fans, is essential. The first team squad and the coach have expressed their satisfaction with the club’s decision, as they understand that sporting merits must prevail over any other criteria.”

Real Madrid’s club president Florentino Pérez, one of the principal backers of the Super League — he was poised to chair the project — had defended the plan earlier this week by saying it would save football at a time of economic hardship.

Liverpool owner John W Henry, who also owns the Boston Red Socks, issued a video apology to fans in the wake of the controversial bid to join the breakaway league while the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust demanded an explanation from the club’s board.

“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.”

Man United used similar language to announce their abandonment of the Super League.

“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.” It later later announced the club’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward would leave his role at the end of 2021. Club sources told UK media the departure had been planned before the Super League controversy.

“We can confirm that we have formally commenced procedures to withdraw from the group developing proposals for a European Super League (ESL),” Tottenham said in a statement.

Arsenal management apologised for their initial commitment to the ESL, calling it a “mistake,” and said they resolved to pull out after listening to supporters and the “wider football community.”

The Premier League, The Football Association (FA) and the 14 top-division English clubs not involved in plans for the hypothetical ESL said earlier Tuesday they would consider “all options” to prevent the proposed elite league from going ahead.

The announcement of the new competition late Sunday night also sparked an immediate backlash from English pundits and fans, with critics slamming the initiative as purely financially driven and one that would be damaging to the sport at its grassroots level.

Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp and Man City’s Pep Guardiola both criticised the ESL proposal, as did a number of players.

FIFA and its six continental confederations, including UEFA, all spoke out strongly against the initiative.

FIFA sought to nip the idea in the bud in January when it warned that any club or player involved in a proposed super league would be barred from international competitions, including World Cup tournaments and UEFA European Football Championships.