The European Super League lasted for only around 48 hours but the owners of the 9 clubs that withdrew from the breakaway league will still have to brace themselves for sanctions that will be coming their way.
The two Milan giants – Inter and AC Milan – and Atletico Madrid followed all six Premier League clubs to pull out of the European Super League on Wednesday, dealing a fatal blow to the project as the besieged owners launched damage-control plans in a desperate attempt to deal with incoming sanctions.
The withdrawals of the “Big Six” of England – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – came just 48 hours after the league’s announcement of its launch on Sunday, following a furious response from fans, officials, players and coaching staff.
“From the Atletico squad we want to communicate our satisfaction over the final decision to withdraw the commitment to the Super League project taken by our club,” said Atletico captain Koke in a statement on behalf of the squad. The players and staff were unaware of the breakaway league, much like the other teams involved as well. This was a play by owners without holding discussions with fans, players and other stakeholders.
Real Madrid and Barcelona – the last of the initial group of 12 clubs to sign up – have maintained their commitment to the project, however, with Florentino Perez making a bold claim saying that the league is not dead and Barcelona President Joan Laporta also supporting the league stating that it is a necessity but will not make a decision with the voices of the fans being heard.
“We got it wrong,” said Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer in his first public comments since the tournament was announced but United fans have been unforgiving and are demanding the Glazers to sell the club.
“This is the world’s greatest football club and we apologise unreservedly for the unrest caused during these past few days.”
Glazer’s apology followed Liverpool owner John W Henry’s apology to the Merseyside club’s fans and staff.
The American apologised and added saying, “It goes without saying but should be said, the project put forward was never going to stand without the support of the fans.”
However, the withdrawals may not save the clubs from punishment.
Karl-Erik Nilsson, the president of the Swedish Football Association, said European governing body UEFA’s executive committee would decide whether to take action against the clubs at its next meeting on Friday.
AC Milan were one the main drivers behind the plans, having missed out on qualifying for the UEFA Champions League in the past seven seasons.
The seven-time European champions felt that a shake-up was necessary due to the changing football landscape but admitted they “must be sensitive to the voice of those who love this wonderful sport”.
Italian champions Juventus said they remained “convinced of the soundness of the project’s sport, commercial and legal premises” but accepted it could not go ahead in its original form as Andrea Agnelli made a statement.
The Super League promised a guaranteed entry bonus for its founding clubs along with billions of dollars in payments.
Many of the clubs have huge debts and wage bills. They have suffered a further drop in revenues due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the Super League was fiercely opposed, from fans to players, coaches, politicians, the UEFA and FIFA.
The clubs were threatened with a ban from domestic and European football, while their players could have been barred from representing their countries at the international level.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin was willing to forgive on Wednesday, saying he wanted to “rebuild the unity” of European football, and described the English clubs as “back in the fold” following their pull out from the Super League.
“I said yesterday that it is admirable to admit [to] a mistake and these clubs made a big mistake,” Ceferin said in a statement.
“The important thing now is that we move on, rebuild the unity that the game enjoyed before this and move forward together.”
Lots of Drama!
Manchester United and Juventus shares took a major hit following the disbanding of the Super League on Wednesday.
In response to the club withdrawals, the Super League had said it was looking for ways to “reshape”, insisting the “status quo of European football needs to change”.
“We shall reconsider the most appropriate steps to reshape the project,” its statement said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the English clubs’ withdrawals from The Super League, telling parliament: “The announcement was the right result for football fans, for clubs and for communities across the country.”
Following the drama on Tuesday, Manchester United announced that executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward would step down from his role at the end of 2021.
Several players at the English clubs had voiced opposition to the Super League, including Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola who said, “It’s not a sport when success is already guaranteed.”
It remains to be seen what is in store for European football as the UEFA announced a new Champions League format from 2024, which will see 36 teams instead of 32 and the scrapping of a group system. It will, instead, see teams playing in a league format with the top 8 teams qualifying automatically for the knockouts.