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'Absolute disgrace', former players slam Super League

Reuters/AFP/London
Filed on April 19, 2021
Barcelona are one of the 12 teams in the new Super League. (AFP)

Clubs from England, Spain and Italy have signed up to the plans, while no German or French sides have yet to be associated with the breakaway league


Former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy said plans for a breakaway Super League launched by 12 of Europe’s top clubs were ‘soulless’ and expected a backlash from managers and players.

The move, which sets up a rival to the Champions League competition, was condemned by football authorities and political leaders, with Uefa saying participating clubs would be banned from domestic leagues, such as the Premier League.

Clubs from England, Spain and Italy have signed up to the plans, while no German or French sides have yet to be associated with the breakaway league.

Former Liverpool midfielder Murphy said players would be risking too much to take part in the proposed Super League.

“The plans ... sound soulless,” he told the BBC.

“We’ve already seen strong opposition from leagues and federations who would be affected, and fans as well. Next, I think we will see a backlash from managers and players too.”

World soccer’s governing body Fifa has previously threatened to ban any players taking part in a breakaway from participating in World Cups and Murphy said the consequences for players could be severe.

“You’re also being told you can no longer play for your country if you are part of this,” he added. “Again, that’s what you dream of doing as a kid, so I just don’t see many footballers agreeing to that, which actually gives me hope that this whole idea will quickly fall apart.”

Former Manchester United captain Roy Keane said the Super League was all about ‘money and greed’.

“Let’s hope it’s stopped in its tracks,” he told Sky Sports. “We talk about big clubs, Bayern Munich are one of the biggest clubs in the world. At least they’ve made a stance, which is a good start.”

Former Manchester City defender Micah Richards said the new competition had not taken into consideration the fans of clubs.

“What happens to the memories of what the fans have had over the years?” Richards said.

“They’re just forgotten about for the sake of money, and that’s the way football has become now. I think it’s an absolute disgrace.”

Earlier on Sunday, twelve of Europe’s most powerful clubs announced the launch of a breakaway European Super League in a potentially seismic shift in the way football is run.

Six Premier League teams — Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham — are involved, alongside Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan.

The ESL said the founding clubs had agreed to create a ‘new midweek competition’ but would continue to ‘compete in their respective national leagues’.

It said it hoped the inaugural edition would start ‘as soon as practicable’.

Three more founding clubs would be announced, the ESL said in a statement, with a further five places up for grabs through a qualifying system each year.

Crucially, the 15 initial members would be guaranteed qualification every season.

Clubs would be split into two groups of ten, playing each other home and away. The top three in each group would qualify for the quarterfinals and the teams in fourth and fifth would play a two-legged play-off for the two remaining spots.

Then the competition would adopt the same two-leg knockout format used in the Champions League before a single-leg final in May.

In terms of the financial draw for clubs, organisers said they would receive “solidarity payments” that would be “substantially higher than those generated by the current European competition”.

For signing up to the new league, “Founding Clubs will receive an amount of 3.5 billion euros solely to support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the Covid pandemic,” the statement added.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the clubs “must answer to their fans and the wider footballing community before taking any further steps”.

With no French team among the initial ESL clubs, President Emmanuel Macron said the plans risked “threatening the principle of solidarity and sporting merit”.

The ESL announcement was timed to pre-empt Uefa’s own scheduled unveiling of reforms to the Champions League on Monday, with an expansion to 36 teams from 32 and two ‘wildcard’ slots expected to be among the plans. There would be a minimum of 10 games for each team.

The Premier League, the richest in Europe, also issued a furious statement.

“Fans of any club in England and across Europe can currently dream that their team may climb to the top and play against the best,” it said.

“We believe that the concept of a European Super League would destroy this dream.”

Arsenal, who currently sit ninth in the Premier League, well off the qualification spots for Europe, hinted at the obstacles ahead, saying “there’s lots more to do to bring the competition to life”.

The European Club Association (ECA) said it “strongly opposes” the Super League.

Juventus, whose president Andrea Agnelli was also chief of the ECA, said the club and its boss had left the body.

The club warned that it “cannot assure that the project will be eventually successfully launched”.

Juventus are facing a battle to finish in the Serie A top four this season and seven-time European champions AC Milan have not played in the Champions League since 2014.

Real Madrid chief Florentino Perez, who was announced as the first ESL president, said the breakaway reflected the big clubs’ wishes.

“Football is the only global sport in the world with more than four billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to their desires,” he said.

Manchester United’s American co-chairman Joel Glazer, who will be a vice-chairman of the Super League, said it “will open a new chapter for European football”.

The clubs also said a women’s version of the competition will be created.





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