Super League dead as Italian and Spanish clubs follow English exodus

Afp, London

22 April, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Super League dead as Italian and Spanish clubs follow English exodus

Football supporters demonstrate against the proposed European Super League outside of Stamford Bridge football stadium in London on Tuesday ahead of the English Premier League match between Chelsea and Brighton. —AFP PHOTO

The two Milan giants and Atletico Madrid followed all six English Premier League clubs in pulling out of the Euro-pean Super League on Wednesday, dealing a fatal blow to the project.

The withdrawals by Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham came just 48 hours after the league's unveiling late on Sunday following a furious response from fans and officials.

The three Italian clubs involved -- Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan -- admitted defeat and La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid also pulled out.

Real Madrid and Barcelona -- the last of the initial group of 12 clubs to sign up -- have yet to make any comment but the project in its current form is dead in the wa- ter.

AC Milan were one the main drivers be-hind the plans, having missed out on the Champions League for the past seven seasons.

The seven-time Eu-ropean champions said change was neces-sary due to the chang-ing football landscape but admitted they "must be sensitive to the voice of those who love this wonderful sport".

Italian champions Juventus said they re-

mained "convinced of the soundness of the project's sport, commercial and legal premises" but accepted it could not go ahead in its original form. The Super League promised guaranteed entry for its founding clubs and billions of dollars in payments. Most of the clubs have huge debts and wage bills, and suffered a sharp drop in revenues during the coronavirus pandemic.

But the project was vehemently opposed across the football spectrum, from fans to players, coaches, politicians and UEFA and FIFA, the European and world football bodies.

The clubs were threatened with a ban from domestic and European football, while their players could even have been barred from representing their countries.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin struck a conciliatory

tone on Wednesday, saying he wanted to "rebuild the unity" of European football, and described the English clubs as "back in the fold".

"I said yesterday that it is admirable to admit amistake and these clubs made a big mistake," Ceferin said in a statement.

"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 for-ward together."

Shares in Juventus plunged by more than 13 percent on Wednesday following a slump in the value of Manchester United stocks.

In response to the English pull-outs, 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 re-shape the project," its state-ment said.

Liverpool owner John W Henry apologised for his part in the planned Super League after club captain Jordan Henderson said the players did not want it to happen.

"I want to apologise to all the fans and support-ers of Liverpool Football Club for the disruption I caused over the last 48

hours," the American said in a video posted on the club's Twitter site.

"It goes without saying but should be said, the project put forward was never going to stand without the support of the fans."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the English pull-outs, telling parliament: "The announcement was the right result for football fans, for clubs and for communities across the country."

The English Football Association also welcomed the withdrawals, praising fans for "their influential and un-equivocal voice".

Reigning European champions Bayern Munich and French giants Paris Saint-Germain had both come out strong-ly opposed to the breakaway league, dealing it a heavy blow.