English football clubs withdraw from European Super League

21 Apr 2021

By: Sport Industry Group

Proposals for a ‘breakaway’ European Super League (ESL) appeared to collapse after all six of the English clubs who were part of the group of 12 who backed the plans announced they were pulling out of the project. The total number of withdrawals is currently at nine.

The news of the Premier League clubs' withdrawals broke on Tuesday night, and was followed-up on Wednesday morning with the confirmation that Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan had both announced their exit too. Juventus Chairman - and one of the leading architects of the ESL proposals - Andrea Agnelli told reporters that the project would not proceed.

When asked if the ESL could still happen, Agnelli reportedly said: "To be frank and honest no, evidently that is not the case."

"I remain convinced of the beauty of that project, of the value that it would have developed to the pyramid, of the creation of the best competition in the world, but evidently no. I don't think that project is now still up and running."

Juventus - one of the clubs, along with Barcelona and Real Madrid, which are yet to formally withdraw - have released a statment in which they say they remain convinced of the 'soundness' of the project.

AC Milan, meanwhile, said in a statement they 'must be sensitive to the voice of those who love this wonderful sport'. It has since been reported that they, too, will withdraw.

Chelsea fans gathered outside Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night as the team bus carried players to a Premier League match against Brighton when the news broke that the west London club was preparing to withdraw.

That news was followed by the first confirmed exit, when Manchester City released a one-line statement saying it had ‘formally enacted the procedures to withdraw from the group developing plans for a European Super League.’

Across the course of Tuesday evening, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool all released statements confirming they had set in motion plans to leave the project.

Chelsea said: “We have now had time to consider the matter fully and have decided that our continued participation in these plans would not be in the best interests of the club, our supporters or the wider football community.”

Arsenal, meanwhile, said the Emirates club had taken the decision to withdraw ‘as a result of listening to you [the fans] and the wider football community’, going on to say ‘we made a mistake, and we apologise for it.’ Tottenham Chairman Daniel Levy expressed ‘regret’ for the ‘anxiety and upset’ caused by the proposals.

 

 

Manchester United also acknowledged its fans’ part in helping change the club’s mind, stating ‘we have listened carefully to the reaction of our fans, the UK government and other key stakeholders.” The news followed an announcement just over an hour earlier that the club’s Executive Vice Chairman would step down from his role ‘at the end of 2021.’

After confirming the club’s withdrawal on Tuesday night, Liverpool Principal Owner John W Henry released a video directly addressing the club’s fans and apologising ‘for the disruption I caused over the past 48 hours.’ He also apologised directly to manager Jurgen Klopp and CEO Billy Hogan who were ‘the most disrupted and unfairly so’.

Liverpool’s statement came just after its Official Global Timing Partner, the watchmaking brand TRIBUS, announced its ‘withdrawal’ from the partnership, stating that it could not ‘support the move by the club’s owners to break away into a new competition.’

Throughout the night, a host of footballers used their social media platforms to display their opposition to the proposed breakaway league, with Liverpool's players showing a united front against proposals, each posting the same graphic. Earlier in the day, criticism came from a number other players currently playing for the six English clubs involved, such as Marcus Rashford, while Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola joined Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp in expressing scepticism at the move, saying 'it is not a sport when it doesn’t matter [if] you lose'.

 

 

Tuesday's criticism from football figures across the media and within the game was sharp, and included statements against the ESL from the likes of Gary Lineker - who stated that he would never present coverage of the league - and Amazon Prime Video, who stated it 'understands and shares' concerns raised by fans.

Those criticisms followed an announcement by the UK government that it would carry out a 'fan-led' review of football, headed by former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch.

On Tuesday night, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin welcomed the decision by Manchester City to withdraw from the project in a statement released at a time when the Etihad club was the only English club to confirm its withdrawal, before the others did later in the evening.

Ceferin said in a statement: “I said yesterday [Monday] that it is admirable to admit a mistake and these clubs made a big mistake.”

“But they are back in the fold now and I know they have a lot to offer not just to our competitions but to the whole of the European game.

“The important thing now is that we move on, rebuild the unity that the game enjoyed before this and move forward together.”

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