Spurs chairman Daniel Levy
European Super League in ruins as all six English clubs abandon breakaway in night of high drama
The breakaway European Super League said it would now focus on efforts to “reshape the project” after the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ quit the competition and Ed Woodward resigned from Manchester United.
Fans celebrated a stunning victory over the billionaire owners of Europe’s top clubs as they fell like dominoes to herald the demise of the tournament following one of the most extraordinary 48 hours in the history of football.
Chelsea and Manchester City were the first to walk away from the reviled, mainly-closed competition before Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur came crawling back to Uefa and its revamped Champions League.
United said in a statement: “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.”
Liverpool added: “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.”
Arsenal and Spurs were the only two clubs to express regret about joining the rebel competition.
The Arsenal board said: “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.”
The Super League insisted early on Wednesday that the project was not over.
“Despite the announced departure of the English clubs, forced to take such decisions due to the pressure on them, we are convinced our proposal is fully aligned with European law and regulations,” said the statement.
“Given the current circumstances, we shall reconsider the most appropriate steps to reshape the project, always having in mind our goals of offering fans the best experience possible while enhancing solidarity payments for the entire football community”.
The remaining clubs in the Super League are Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona from Spain and Inter Milan, AC Milan and Juventus from Italy.
Inter Milan looked likely to be the next to leave with the Italian news agency ANSA quoting a club source as saying “The Super League project in its current state is no longer considered of interest by Inter”.
Woodward was expected to remain in post until the end of the year and he made no mention of the fiasco in his resignation statement, in which he said he was “proud of the regeneration of the club’s culture and our return to the Manchester United way of playing”.
But there is no question who was being lined up as the fall guy, with Premier League clubs wanting him sanctioned for bringing the game into disrepute.
Roman Abramovich, meanwhile, went from villain to hero as Chelsea became the first of the so-called ‘Dirty Dozen’ Super League clubs to prepare documentation to quit it amid an angry protest by their supporters ahead of their Premier League game against Brighton & Hove Albion.
There were resounding cheers from fans who had earlier been chanting anti-Super League slogans, letting off blue smoke bombs and marching around Stamford Bridge, as police struggled to control the crowds.
Chelsea had been among the last of the clubs to sign up to The Super League, with Telegraph Sport told they felt they had been left with little choice to do so if they were not to be left behind by the likes of United, Liverpool, Real and Barcelona.
City, who were also latecomers in signing up to the rebel tournament, said in a statement: “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.”
Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin said: “I am delighted to welcome City back to the European football family.
“They have shown great intelligence in listening to the many voices – most notably their fans – that have spelled out the vital benefits that the current system has for the whole of European football.
“It takes courage to admit a mistake but I have never doubted that they had the ability and common sense to make that decision.”
The Football Association said: “We would like to thank the fans in particular for their influential and unequivocal voice during this time, holding true the guiding principles of football. It is a powerful reminder that the game is, and always will be, for fans. We would also like to thank the Prime Minister, Secretary of State and sports minister for their unwavering and critical support against these plans.”
Boris Johnson, who had vowed to drop a “legislative bomb” on The Super League to kill it off posted on Twitter: “The decision by Chelsea and Manchester City is – if confirmed – absolutely the right one and I commend them for it. I hope the other clubs involved in the European Super League will follow their lead.”
Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, added: “The whole ESL move shows how out-of-touch these owners are.”
Liverpool players became the first collectively to condemn the competition in a series of co-ordinated posts on Twitter.
Captain Jordan Henderson was among those to post: “We don’t like it and we don’t want it to happen. This is our collective position. Our commitment to this football club and its supporters is absolute and unconditional. You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
Club legend Sir Kenny Dalglish added: “The last few days have been difficult for everyone who loves Liverpool Football Club and I really hope we do the right thing.”
Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw had earlier joined United team-mate Bruno Fernandes in casting doubt on the competition, the former posting a photo on Twitter including a quote from Sir Matt Busby which read: “Football is nothing without fans”.
Pep Guardiola echoed the chorus of condemnation, saying: “It is not a sport when success is guaranteed or it doesn’t matter when you lose.”
The 14 Premier League clubs not involved in The Super League “unanimously and vigorously” rejected its creation after meeting to discuss their response to it.
Reaction as English clubs’ Super League plans fold
Labour leader Keir Starmer welcomed the news of Chelsea’s sudden withdrawal. He said on Twitter: “Fantastic news. Other clubs should now follow suit.
“But let’s not lose the energy of the last few days – this must be a watershed moment, where we change our game to put fans first again.”
Former England striker Gary Lineker added: “We’ve got our football back.”
Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne posted an impassioned tweet on Tuesday evening.
“This man comes out of a little town out of Belgium, dreaming of playing at the highest stage possible… I have worked and competed against everybody trying to win the ultimate. But the most important word in this is COMPETING.
“With all events that [have] been happening in the last few days this is the good moment for everybody to come together and try the work for a solution.
“We know this is a big business and I know I am part of this business. But I am still a little boy who loves to play football. It’s not about a certain entity in this case, it’s about the football over the whole world. Let’s keep inspiring the next generation of footballers and keep the fans dreaming”.
Manchester United defender Luke Shaw also posted a message on Twitter: “There is so much passion around the world for football and I have been privileged to experience that first-hand, however I worry that these changes could impact that sport that I and millions of others love,” he wrote. “Fans and players should always have a voice and their opinion should always be counted.”
Arsene Wenger, speaking on on beIN Sport: “I must say the biggest paradox in all of this was the English clubs. England voted for Brexit to master their own destiny. England has the strongest league in the world. By signing these documents, they were destroying the Premier League. Unbelievable.”
© The Fan Experience Company 2020