The ‘big six’ Premier League teams have pulled out of the newly formed European Super League (ESL) after reversing their decisions on the hugely controversial breakaway tournament.
Yesterday evening, Manchester City became the first club to withdraw from the competition, shortly after it was reported that Chelsea was preparing documentation to quit the league. Now, all ‘big six’ top tier teams have pulled out of the ESL, after the remaining four clubs – Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – also quit.
Furthermore, United’s Chief Executive Ed Woodward, who played a key part in the plans, announced he will step down from his role at the club. Earlier this week, Woodward resigned from his post at UEFA after Manchester United pulled out of the European Club Association (ECA) and it was confirmed that Joel Glazer would serve as Vice-Chairman of the ESL.
It has also been reported by other news outlets and prominent journalists that Juventus Chairman Andrea Agnelli – whom UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin labelled ‘biggest disappointment of all’ – will also resign from the Serie A club.
The tournament, which was announced at the weekend, was met with widespread condemnation, and City said it had ‘listened carefully to the reaction from our fans, the UK government and other key stakeholders’ when coming to the decision to withdraw.
City’s star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne voiced his concerns with the proposals on social media, tweeting out: “With all events that have been happening the last few days maybe this is the good moment for everybody to come together and try to work for a solution.
“We know this is a big business and I know I am part of this business. But I am still a little boy who just loves to play football. It’s not about a certain entity in this case, it’s about the football all over the world.”
Liverpool, whose captain Jordan Henderson called an emergency meeting between his fellow Premier League captains to discuss the issue, confirmed its membership ‘has been discontinued’.
John W Henry's message to Liverpool supporters. pic.twitter.com/pHW3RbOcKu
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) April 21, 2021
Spurs, meanwhile, apologised for the ‘anxiety and upset’ it had caused to supporters and Arsenal said it had ‘made a mistake’ by signing up to the proposals and would take ‘time for further reflection and deep thought’.
On the other side of the capital, over 1,000 Chelsea supporters congregated outside of Stamford Bridge in protest of the plans before the club’s game against Brighton and Hove Albion, shortly after it had been reported that executives of the team were having ‘doubts’ about the league.
Ceferin said on the U-turn of the English contingent: “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.”
On Tuesday, a Spanish court rule that UEFA and FIFA could not block the formation of the ESL, after the two footballing authorities, along with the UK government, had threatened to take legal steps against the founding clubs.
The scene at Stamford Bridge as it’s reported Chelsea preparing to withdraw pic.twitter.com/meZpntKiBc
— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) April 20, 2021
Commenting on Twitter, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised the decision, posting out: “I welcome last night’s announcement. This is the right result for football fans, clubs, and communities across the country. We must continue to protect our cherished national game.”
La Liga trio Atletico Madrid, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid and Italy’s AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus still remain in the ESL, although it was reported that Atletico was also considering pulling out.
The ESL has released a statement in response which read: “Given the current circumstances we shall reconsider the most appropriate steps to reshape the project, always having in mind our goals of offering fans the best experience possible while enhancing solidarity payments for the entire football community.”
Speaking to Insider Sport earlier this week, Managing Director of thinkBeyond – a sports social impact marketing consultancy – Pete Fitzboydon highlighted the power of the fan, which ultimately prevailed against the ESL proposals.
“Ultimately, the whole of football is funded by fans, either by going to games, subscribing to the channels or buying the products that sponsor football. It’s a fact quite often lost,” he noted.
“If fans don’t want it and don’t support it, it won’t happen. If there’s such a massive uprising against it, I can’t see how they’re going to get the necessary backing from broadcasters, sponsors and fans to make it successful.”