May 18, 2021

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European Super League English exodus: Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Spurs exit with Man City, Chelsea

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LONDON — The English exodus from the European Super League is complete with Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham having joined Chelsea and Manchester City in leaving the breakaway league of 12 teams from across the continent, a project which now seems doomed with half its membership having quit less than 48 hours after signing up.

In a dramatic Tuesday for English football, plans for the Premier League clubs to play midweek fixtures in a largely closed league with 15 spaces reserved for founder members fell apart with Chelsea and Manchester City being the first dominoes to fall.

The Blues are the only club not to formally announce their departure from the confirmation, but CBS Sports first revealed their decision hours before Thomas Tuchel’s side kicked off their 0-0 draw against Brighton and Hove Albion, a match that was delayed after fans took to the streets surrounding Stamford Bridge to express their anger. Their exit is merely awaiting a formal announcement. 

Soon after Manchester City followed, kicking off crisis talks across European football that would see the other four clubs confirm their departure just before 11 p.m. U.K. time (6 p.m. ET in the U.S.).

The events of the past 48 hours have not been without their casualties with Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward announcing his departure within hours of the first fissures emerging in the big six. The club insisted that his exit, which will come at the end of 2021, was not linked to the Super League though the timing is auspicious.

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Meanwhile, owners of these clubs will be feeling the pressure. The U.K. government announced a fan-led review of football with culture secretary Oliver Dowden saying “I remain convinced of the need for reform. We must make sure this never happens again.” Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville said owning family the Glazers had no place at his ex-club, while CBS Sports pundit Jamie Carragher said he does not believe Liverpool owners will be welcome at Anfield again.

Arsenal reflected the mood of the six footballing giants brought low by their supporters in a lengthy open letter from board members Stan Kroenke, Josh Kroenke, Lord Harris of Peckham and Tim Lewis. “We needed no reminding of this but the response from supporters in recent days has given us time for further reflection and deep thought,” they said.

“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 apologize for it.”

Others were altogether briefer in their confirmation with Liverpool stating: “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.”

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.”

So far there has been no confirmation on the fates of the remaining clubs from Italy (AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus) or Spain (Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid) but the project appears doomed.

James Benge
2021-04-20 18:58:43

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