English football’s so-called ‘big six’ have confirmed their intention to pull out of the proposed European Super League.
Manchester City became the first team to quit the controversial project on Tuesday evening and were later followed by Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal. Chelsea have also begun proceedings to withdraw from the breakaway competition.
It capped a remarkable evening of developments in the saga which also saw United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward resign.
The Super League now appears to have collapsed just 48 hours after it was announced.
The six Premier League clubs had joined forces with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan to create a rival competition to the Champions League.
It was highly controversial because its ‘founder members’ – who were all apparently unhappy with UEFA’s proposed changes to the Champions League – were to be granted automatic entry each year.
It met with immediate and fierce condemnation from across the sporting and political spectrum as well as widespread fan protest. There was also disgruntlement from within the clubs involved, with managers such as Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp and Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola voicing dissatisfaction.
A statement from United, believed to be one of the driving forces behind the scheme, 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.”
Liverpool also confirmed they had taken their decision to pull out in response to considerable negative feedback.
A 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.”
Arsenal issued a more emotive statement in which they apologised to supporters.
It read: “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.”
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy said: “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.
“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.”
City’s statement was more succinct, saying: “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.”
Chelsea were the only one of the English clubs not to confirm officially, but the they have begun proceedings to pull out.
The club certainly saw at first hand the depth of feeling around the issue as a large-scale protest took place outside Stamford Bridge ahead of Tuesday’s Premier League game against Brighton.
The team were greeted by a huge crowd with banners while smoke bombs were also set off as police tried to keep control.
Another apparent casualty was Woodward, who is understood to have been a key figure in the creation of the Super League.
The 49-year-old, who has been in post at Old Trafford since 2013, announced he would leave his position at the end of 2021, although the club’s statement on his departure made no mention of Super League.
News of the English clubs’ withdrawal met with a positive response from the Football Association.
A statement read: “We welcome news that some of the clubs have decided to abandon the plans for the European Super League, which threatened the whole football pyramid.
“English football has a proud history based on opportunity for all clubs and the game has been unanimous in its disapproval of a closed league. It was a position that, by design, could have divided our game; but instead, it has unified us all.”
The developments started with FIFA president Gianni Infantino saying his organisation “strongly disapproves” of plans for a European Super League and warning the breakaway clubs they will have to “live with the consequences of their choice”.
Criticism from the other 14 Premier League clubs was cutting, with Everton claiming the “preposterous arrogance” of the big six and accusing them of “betraying” supporters around the country.
Boris Johnson held a meeting with the representatives from the Football Association, Premier League and football fan groups, with Downing Street claiming the Prime Minister reiterated his “unwavering support” for their attempts to prevent the breakaway competition.
In an interview with Spanish TV, European Super League chairman Florentino Perez was vehement that expulsion from the Champions League would not happen, claiming “the law protects us”.
UEFA’s head of women’s football, Nadine Kessler, warned of the damage the creation of the league would do to the female game.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said: “It is not a sport where the relation between effort and success does not exist. It is not a sport where success is already guaranteed, it is not a sport where it doesn’t matter when you lose.”
Paris St Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said the proposals had been driven by self-interest as he instead backed UEFA’s planned reforms to the Champions League.
The 14 Premier League clubs at Tuesday’s meeting “unanimously and vigorously rejected” plans for the Super League and the league announced it is “considering all actions available to prevent it from progressing”.
Amazon Prime Video said in a statement it had not been involved in any discussions regarding the proposed new league.
Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich confirmed they have said no to the Super League.
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee confirmed it would hold an evidence session to examine the impact of the Super League proposals.
Former Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech tried to calm down supporters protesting outside Stamford Bridge and was heard saying in a video posted on social media “give everybody time”.
Social media was buzzing with claims Chelsea, Manchester City, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona are preparing to withdraw from the Super League.
Shortly after 8pm, the PA news agency understands Ed Woodward had resigned as Manchester United executive vice-chairman.
Manchester City confirmed they had “formally enacted the procedures to withdraw from the group developing plans for a European Super League”.
Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham announced just before 11pm that their involvement in proposed plans to form a European Super League had ended.