European Super League collapse explained: What’s next? Real Madrid, Barcelona quiet; Premier League clubs out – CBS Sports

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European soccer was rocked by the biggest story in at least a generation on Sunday when 12 of Europe’s biggest clubs announced plans to break away from the established soccer order and form a Super League. The plan was ultimately short-lived after the rogue breakaway group lost the backing of all six Premier League clubs on Tuesday followed by more clubs leaving the project Wednesday. 

On Tuesday night, the Super League was put on pause to «reconsider the most appropriate steps to reshape the project,» effectively ending a 48-hour power play to leave UEFA, the governing body for European soccer. Real Madrid and Barcelona were the only clubs left standing without releasing a statement to their fans on the collapse of the Super League plans.

Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli, one of the founding members of the failed Super League project, told Reuters on Wednesday he «remained convinced of the beauty of that project, but admittedly … I mean, I don’t think that that project is now still up and running.»

The Super League issued the following statement Tuesday night, promising to reconsider its plans to reshape the sport in Europe: 

The European Super League is convinced that the current status quo of European football needs to change.

We are proposing a new European competition because the existing system does not work. Our proposal is aimed at allowing the sport to evolve while generating resources and stability for the full football pyramid, including helping to overcome the financial difficulties experienced by the entire football community as a result of the pandemic. It would also provide materially enhanced solidarity payments to all football stakeholders.

Despite the announced departure of the English clubs, forced to take such decisions due the pressure out on them, we are convinced our proposal is fully aligned with European law and regulations as was demonstrated today by a court decision to protect the Super League from third party actions.

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.  

The basics on the deal struck before the fallout? A group of 12 clubs from across Europe’s biggest leagues announced plans to form a new competition called the Super League. The league had plans to offer permanent spots to some of the world’s biggest clubs and play matches midweek, while allowing the involved clubs to remain in their domestic competitions. The plan was opposed by FIFA, the governing body for international soccer, and UEFA.

Here’s what we know so far:

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In a stunning turn of events, Chelsea became the first team to back out of their Super League deal, CBS Sports insider James Benge confirmed. Manchester City made an announcement soon thereafter, and the other four Premier League clubs followed suit Tuesday night. The sudden reversals were the first dominoes to fall as the breakaway group’s chances of success plummeted and also ended speculation about whether their Champions League semifinal run in this season’s tournament can continue.

Craving more coverage of the Super League drama? Listen below and follow ¡Qué Golazo! A Daily CBS Soccer Podcast where we take you beyond the pitch and around the globe for an emergency episode.

What was the original Super League plan?

The Super League was a long-discussed idea for a closed competition that would feature Europe’s biggest clubs. Over the years, there have been many different theoretical proposals for what that league would look like. On Sunday, 12 clubs announced their intention to break away from UEFA and form their own league. They had plans to add three more permanent members and leave five spots open in the 20-team format that European clubs could qualify for from across Europe’s domestic competitions.

Which teams were initially involved?

Here are the 12 teams who were initially listed as founding members:

Real Madrid: Real Madrid have not yet made any public statements. They’re one of the two clubs left standing. President Florentino Perez, who was named president of the Super League, said the financial loss from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was part of the chief reason why he chose to team up with other top clubs to break away. Perez, who spoke to Spanish TV personality Josep Pedrerol on El Chiringuito TV, revealed that the Super League would not have been «closed» and would have eventually built a pyramid format for others to join. 

«The important clubs of Spain, England and Italy have to find a solution to this very bad situation that football is in,» Perez said. «We came to a conclusion that by creating a Super League, instead of playing Champions League midweek, we can alleviate lost revenue.

«Football needs to evolve, like life does … Soccer needs to adapt to the times we live in. Football is losing interest … Something must be done and the pandemic hastened that. We are all ruined.

«Instead of playing the Champions [League] as it is, which is losing interest, now we must find something enticing which is to play amongst the big clubs. We are at a critical moment. Fifteen teams generate value, and five other teams will make the Super League through sporting merit. It is not a closed league. We believe in the merit of teams so that they fight to deserve to play in a competition like this.»

Barcelona: Although recent-elected club president Joan Laporta has not made his stance public, on Wednesday, his manager Ronald Koeman said he agrees with Gerard Pique’s tweet Tuesday night that «football belongs to the fans.»

«The president called me yesterday, we spoke and he explained the Super League issue to me. I don’t know if he has spoken about it with the players,» Koeman said. «I don’t want to speak a lot about this issue but I am in agreement with Pique’s tweet.»  

Manchester City (have asked out): «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 (have asked out): «As reported earlier this evening, Chelsea Football Club can confirm that it has begun the formal procedures for withdrawal from the group developing plans for a European Super League. Having joined the group late last week, we have now had time to consider the matter fully and have decided that our continued participation in these plans would not be in the best interests of the Club, our supporters or the wider football community.»

Manchester United (have asked out): «Over the past few days, we have all witnessed the great passion which football generates, and the deep loyalty our fans have for this great club,» club owner Joel Glazer said in an open letter.

«You made very clear your opposition to the European Super League, and we have listened. We got it wrong, and we want to show that we can put things right.

«Although the wounds are raw and I understand that it will take time for the scars to heal, I am personally committed to rebuilding trust with our fans and learning from the message you delivered with such conviction.

«We continue to believe that European football needs to become more sustainable throughout the pyramid for the long-term. However, we fully accept that the Super League was not the right way to go about it.

«In seeking to create a more stable foundation for the game, we failed to show enough respect for its deep-rooted traditions -promotion, relegation, the pyramid – and for that we are sorry.»

Liverpool (have asked out): «I want to apologize to all the fans and supporters of Liverpool Football Club for the disruption I caused over the past 48 hours,» John W. Henry said in a video message on Wednesday.

«It goes without saying but should be said that the project put forward was never going to stand without the support of the fans. No-one ever thought differently in England. Over these 48 hours, you were very clear that it would not stand. We heard you. I heard you.

«And I want to apologize to Jurgen [Klopp], to [CEO] Billy [Hogan], to the players and to everyone who works so hard at LFC to make our fans proud. They have absolutely no responsibility for this disruption. They were the most disrupted, and unfairly so. This is what hurts most. They love your club and work to make you proud every single day.»

Arsenal (have asked out): «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,» the club said in an open letter to its supporters.

«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 apologize for it.

«We know it will take time to restore your faith in what we are trying to achieve here at Arsenal but let us be clear that the decision to be part of the Super League was driven by our desire to protect Arsenal, the club you love, and to support the game you love through greater solidarity and financial stability.»

Tottenham Hotspur (have asked out): «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,» chairman Daniel Levy said.

«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.»

Atletico Madrid (have asked out): «Atlético de Madrid’s Board of Directors, which met on Wednesday morning, has decided to formally communicate to the Super League and the rest of the founding clubs its decision not to finally formalize its adhesion to the project.

«Atlético de Madrid took the decision on Monday to join the project due to circumstances that no longer exist today.

«For the club, harmony between all the groups that make up the Red & White family, especially our fans, is essential.

«The first team squad and the coach have expressed their satisfaction with the club’s decision, as they understand that sporting merits must prevail over any other criteria.»

Inter Milan (have asked out): «FC Internazionale Milano confirm that the club is no longer part of the Super League project.

«We are always committed to giving fans the best football experience; innovation and inclusion are part of our DNA since our foundation. Our engagement with all stakeholders to improve the football industry will never change.

«Inter believes that football, like every sector of activity, must have an interest in constantly improving its competitions, to keep on exciting fans of all ages around the world, within a framework of financial sustainability.

«With this vision we look forward to carry on working together with institutions and all stakeholders for the future of the sport we all love.»

AC Milan (reportedly out, but noncommittal in statement): «We accepted the invitation to participate in the Super League project with the genuine intention to deliver the best possible European competition for football fans around the world and in the best interest of the club and our own fans. Change is not always easy, but evolution is necessary for progress, and the structures of European football have evolved and changed over the decades.

«However, the voices and the concerns of fans around the world have clearly been expressed about the Super League, and AC Milan must be sensitive to the voice of those who love this wonderful sport.

«We will continue to work hard to deliver a sustainable model for football.»

Juventus (reportedly out, but noncommittal in statement): «With reference to the press release published by Juventus Football Club S.p.A. on 19 April 2021, relating to the proposed creation of the Super League, and the ensuing public debate, the issuer clarifies to be aware of the request and intentions otherwise expressed by certain clubs to withdraw from this project, although the necessary procedures envisaged by the agreement among the clubs have not been completed.

«In this context, while Juventus remains convinced of the soundness of the project’s sport, commercial and legal premises, it believes that at present there are limited chances that the project be completed in the form originally conceived.

«Juventus remains committed to pursuing the creation of long-term value for the Company and the entire football industry.»

Which notable teams were not included?

Paris Saint-Germain: «Paris Saint-Germain holds the firm belief that football is a game for everyone. I have been consistent on this since the very beginning. As a football club, we are a family and a community; whose fabric is our fans — I believe we shouldn’t forget this,» said Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the head of Qatar Sports Investments, which owns and operates PSG, and also holds a seat in the UEFA executive committee.

»There is a clear need to advance the existing UEFA competition model, presented by UEFA yesterday and concluding 24 months of extensive and collaborative consultation across the whole European football landscape. We believe that any proposal without the support of UEFA — an organization that has been working to progress the interests of European football for nearly 70 years — does not resolve the issues currently facing the football community, but is instead driven by self-interest. Paris Saint-Germain will continue to work with UEFA, the European Club Association (ECA) and all stakeholders of the football family — based on the principles of good faith, dignity and respect for all.»  

FC Bayern Munich: «Our members and fans reject a Super League,» club president Herbert Hainer said. «As FC Bayern, it is our wish and our aim that European clubs live the wonderful and emotional competition that is the Champions League, and develop it together with UEFA. FC Bayern says no to the Super League.»

«On behalf of the board, I would like to make it explicitly clear that FC Bayern will not be taking part in the Super League,» said CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who has taken Juventus president Andrea Agnelli’s seat at ECA and is expected to do the same at UEFA.  «FC Bayern stands in solidarity with the Bundesliga. It always was and is a great pleasure for us to be able to play and represent Germany in the Champions League. We all remember fondly our 2020 Champions League victory in Lisbon – you don’t forget such a joyful moment. For FC Bayern, the Champions League is the best club competition in the world.»

Borussia Dortmund: »The board members of the European Club Association (ECA) came together for a virtual meeting on Sunday evening, where it was agreed that the board’s decision from last Friday still stands,» Dortmund chief executive officer Hans Joachim Watzke said. «This decision dictates that all clubs wish to implement the proposed reforms to the UEFA Champions League. The ECA board members took a clear stance in rejecting plans for the establishment of a Super League.»

RB Leipzig: «We are advocates of sporting competition. And sporting competition in professional football means fighting to achieve a position in the domestic league table that allows the team to take part in international competition. For us, changing this is absolutely out of the question,» Leipzig CEO Oliver Mintzlaff said. «We reject any plans to establish a Super League.»

Borussia Monchengladbach: «This Super League is a club for the super rich, who are flouting the long-established structure of football. It is an attack on UEFA’s club competitions, but above all on the domestic leagues,» Stephan Schippers (CEO) and Max Eberl (sporting director) said in a statement. «It is cynical and hypocritical to claim that this move is for the good of football and is what football fans want, as those behind this league are doing. We can be proud that all of the German clubs have opposed this league, and we will fight to ensure that those clubs involved are expelled from all competitions both domestically and internationally.»

West Ham: «West Ham United shared its views and those of its supporters expressing vehement opposition to the proposal for a Super League at a Premier League meeting held on Tuesday morning.

«Following a meeting between senior club officials and the independent supporters’ committee within 24 hours of the news breaking, vice-chairman Karren Brady met with representatives from 13 other Premier League clubs to share the Hammers’ unequivocally strong disapproval of a proposal by six clubs to create a breakaway league that undermines our values and those of the game we all hold so dear.

«As a club that was founded by working-class shipbuilders over 125 years ago, is deeply rooted in its own community and is acutely aware of the traditions of English football, we passionately believe that there should be no barrier to supporting West Ham United and these proposals go entirely against the integrity of our beautiful game.»

Everton: «Everton is saddened and disappointed to see proposals of a breakaway league pushed forward by six clubs,» the board of directors said in a statement. «Six clubs acting entirely in their own interests. Six clubs tarnishing the reputation of our league and the game. Six clubs choosing to disrespect every other club with whom they sit around the Premier League table. Six clubs taking for granted and even betraying the majority of football supporters across our country and beyond.

«At this time of national and international crisis – and a defining period for our game – clubs should be working together collaboratively with the ideals of our game and its supporters uppermost. Instead, these clubs have been secretly conspiring to break away from a football pyramid that has served them so well.»

Sevilla: The winners of last season’s Europa League, expressed their «outright rejection of a tournament based exclusively on economic parameters and outside the scope of action of UEFA.» More from the statement sent out by their board of directors on Monday: «The creation of this Super League would only serve to harm football in general and the rest of the teams. At the same time, it would severely hit society and punish the vast majority of real football fans, who would be left without the true essence of the sport: The illusion of enjoying their team and seeing it compete for the highest aspirations.»

Lyon: Olympique Lyonnais president Jean-Michel Aulas took to Twitter to observe publicly that «the Super League does not obtain popular support as it highlights the virtues of money over the spirit of fair play» and expressed his hope that «we must build bridges, not walls, together with (PSG Chairman and CEO) Nasser (Al-Khelaifi) for a future football where sporting meritocracy and emotion is not forgotten.»  

Lille: «What is important is the unity that we found on the subject, between French clubs,» said club president Olivier Létang, whose club sits atop the Ligue 1 table. «It seems difficult to me that those who have performed well on the field do not participate in competitions. We are touching on what makes the essence of sport.

«It is not necessary to take a personal position,» said Létang, via RFI. «But we are not used to the principle of a closed league in Europe. We are used to meritocracy.»

Marseille: «As an American who has had the privilege of running and owning clubs on both continents, I have learned that the culture of sport in Europe is very different from that of the United States and must be respected. In Europe, the system is not based on the centralization of power and gratification in the hands of a few. Of course, we have to find a business model that is sustainable and this requires changes. This is the effort undertaken by UEFA, which we support,» club owner Frank McCourt said.

«This is not the time to break this model. It is the moment to transform it while remaining true to the fundamental values of European football culture.

«All of us at Olympique de Marseille are firmly opposed to the proposals made by some clubs to create a European Super League.»

AS Roma: «AS Roma is strongly opposed to this ‘closed’ system, as it fundamentally flies in the face of the spirit of the game that we all love,» the club said in a statement. «Some things are more important than money, and we remain firmly committed to Italian football on a domestic level, and to fair, open European competitions for all. We look forward to continuing to work with Lega Serie A, the Italian Federation, ECA and UEFA to grow and develop the game of football in Italy and around the world. 

«Fans and grassroots football are at the core of our sport, and this must never be forgotten.»

FC Porto: «There were informal contacts from some clubs, but we did not pay much attention for two reasons,» club president Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa said. «First, the European Union does not allow a closed circuit of evidence as there is in the NBA. Second, since our association is against this and part of UEFA, within this framework, we cannot participate in anything that is against the rules of the European Union and UEFA. If that goes forward, and I have my doubts, UEFA will not end and will continue to have evidence, the evidence that is official.»

AFC Ajax: «Ajax are completely taken aback and disappointed by the announcement of a possible Super League. We support the new set-up proposed by UEFA, as confirmed on Monday,» the team announced on social media.

Leeds United: Players called out the Super League on shirts worn before Monday’s match against Liverpool, one of the founding Super League clubs. The shirts read «Football is for the fans» on the back and «Champions League: Earn it» on the front. 

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Who was in charge of the Super League?

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez was named as head chairman of the project. He was initially supported by two vice-chairmen. The full list:

  • Chairman: Florentino Perez (Real Madrid)
  • Vice-chairman: Andrea Agnelli (Juventus)
  • Vice-chairman: Joel Glazer (Manchester United)

What about the financial backing?

The estimated earnings for would-be fixtures signing up to the proposed Super League were set for at least $425 million. Each of the would-be permanent members of the proposed Super League are being promised €350 million ($425 million) to sign up, according to documents obtained by the New York Times

JP Morgan Chase & Co. were reportedly approached to raise financing for the project that has seen FIFA back UEFA by threatening to ban any players involved in such a league from future World Cup competition.

Weren’t there plans to reformat the Champions League?

UEFA and the ECA on Monday released the finalized version of an updated format to the Champions League this season, switching the tournament to a «Swiss Model.»

Gone are the days of six group-stage games. Instead, UEFA plans to expand from 32 to 36 participants and have each play 10 group stage games, five home and five away. This shift produces over 100 new matches. We would still see a pretty similar knockout stage compared to this current season. The big difference is that the winner of the competition would have played at least 17 matches as opposed to 13 under the current format.

Latest UEFA news

UEFA wrapped up its election held for positions on UEFA executive committee and FIFA council in Montreux, Switzerland, and the 55 member associations unanimously approved a declaration strongly condemning the Super League on Tuesday. FIFA president Gianni Infantino, a former UEFA general secretary, was in attendance and warned the 12 breakaway clubs that they could not be «half in, half out.»

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, who earlier this week called those execs involved in breakaway plans «snakes» and a «spit in the face of football lovers,» declared European soccer’s governing body as «unbeatable» when allied with FIFA before challenging the Premier League’s big six to make the difference.

«For some, supporters have become consumers, fans have become customers and competitions have become products,» Ceferin said. «Selfishness is replacing solidarity. Money has become more important than glory, greed more important than loyalty, and dividends more important than passion.»  

On Monday, in a fiery press conference, Ceferin, the UEFA president, emphasized the potential consequences for players participating in the league. «The players that will play in the Super League will be banned from playing in the World Cup and Euros. 

«They will not be allowed to play for their national teams,» Ceferin said while also calling on teams participating in the Super League to be banned from all UEFA competitions.

UEFA has taken a hardline stance against the proposed Super League. On Sunday as news of the possible breakaway occurred, Europe’s governing soccer body released the following statement:

«If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we — UEFA, the English FA, RFEF, FIGC, the Premier League, La Liga, Lega Serie A, but also FIFA and all our member associations — will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever, UEFA said in a statement

«We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way.

«As previously announced by FIFA and the six Federations, the clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams.

«We call on all lovers of football, supporters and politicians, to join us in fighting against such a project if it were to be announced. This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough.»

Latest FIFA news

Back in January, FIFA announced it would ban clubs and players from participating in domestic and international competitions if they were to join a breakaway league. On Tuesday FIFA president Gianni Infantino addressed the UEFA Congress and strongly condemned the actions taken by the breakaway clubs. Here’s what he had to say.

FIFA is an organization which is built on values, the true values of sport. It is an organization that is built on our statutes, the statutes that define the institutional framework, with the pyramid, with FIFA, the confederations, the associations, the leagues, the clubs, the players. And at FIFA, we can only strongly disapprove the creation of a super league which is a closed shop, which is a breakaway from the current institutions, from the leagues, from the associations, from UEFA and from FIFA, which is outside of the system. There is no doubt whatsoever of FIFA’s disapproval for this.

Latest Premier League and English soccer news

The Premier league issued the following statement on Tuesday.

The Premier League, alongside The FA, met with clubs today to discuss the immediate implications of the Super League proposal.

The 14 clubs at the meeting unanimously and vigorously rejected the plans for the competition.

The Premier League is considering all actions available to prevent it from progressing, as well as holding those Shareholders involved to account under its rules. 

The League will continue to work with key stakeholders including fan groups, Government, UEFA, The FA, EFL, PFA and LMA to protect the best interests of the game and call on those clubs involved in the proposed competition to cease their involvement immediately.  

The Premier League would like to thank fans and all stakeholders for the support they have shown this week on this significant issue.

The reaction proves just how much our open pyramid and football community means to people.

In addition to the joint statement sent out by the major federations in Europe, the Premier League also issued a statement condemning plans from their big six on Sunday.

«The Premier League condemns any proposal that attacks the principles of open competition and sporting merit which are at the heart of the domestic and European football pyramid. 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. We believe that the concept of a European Super League would destroy this dream.»

Here’s what the FA said:

«The FA has been made aware of certain English clubs planning to form a closed European Super League with other European Clubs. It is clear that this would be damaging to English and European football at all levels and will attack the principles of open competition and sporting merit which are fundamental to competitive sport.

«For new competitions to be formed involving clubs from different associations, approval would be required from the relevant National Associations, confederation and/or FIFA. We would not provide permission to any competition that would be damaging to English football, and will take any legal and/or regulatory action necessary to protect the broader interests of the game.

Latest news from other European soccer leagues

The Spanish league chimed in on Monday:

«LaLiga strongly condemns the recently published proposal for a breakaway, elitist European competition that attacks the principles of open competition and sporting merit which are at the heart of the domestic and European football pyramid. 

«Today football fans across Europe can dream that their club, no matter the size, may excel, climb to the top and compete at the pinnacle of European football. LaLiga defends this European tradition of football for all. The concept proposed by 12 European clubs destroys that dream, shutting the door to the top of European football, allowing in just an elite few…

«The newly proposed top European competition is nothing more than a selfish, egotistical proposal designed to further enrich the already super rich. It will undermine the appeal of the whole game and have a deeply damaging impact on the immediate and future of LaLiga, its member clubs, and all the entire footballing ecosystem.

Aside from the Royal Spanish Football Federation chiming in with UEFA and the top European domestic leagues, La Liga president Javier Tebas lashed out at the breakaway plans, which involve three Spanish clubs: Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.

«At last, the ‘gurus’ of the ‘powerpoint’ super league, drunk with selfishness and lack of solidarity, are going to leave the ‘5 o’clock bar,’ from the ‘underground,'» Tebas tweeted. «UEFA, the European leagues and La Liga have been working at this for a long time and they will get their due answer.»  

Serie A clubs met Monday to discuss the Super League and Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan — Italian participants of the Super League — were surprise participants. The three breakaway clubs expressed their intentions of staying in Serie A while also participating in the Super League, Romano reports.   

Latest ECA news

The ECA executive board met again on Monday to form an executive committee «to work under the auspices of the executive board to manage day-to-day work during this transitional period.» 

Agnelli, who was the ECA chairman, has now resigned from his seat to join the Super League. Rummenigge, Bayern’s CEO, has taken Agnelli’s seat at ECA and is expected to do the same at UEFA.

Here are the board members in the committee: 

  • Nasser Al-Khelaifi (Paris Saint-Germain)
  • Michael Gerlinger (FC Bayern Munich)
  • Edwin van der Sar (AFC Ajax)
  • Dariusz Mioduski (Legia Warsaw)
  • Aki Riihilahti (HJK Helsinki)
  • Michele Centenaro (Independent member)

Here’s more from ECA, via a statement sent out on Monday:

The Board was unanimous in its condemnation of the actions of the departing members, which it holds to be self-serving and to the detriment of the game’s well-being and in clear opposition to ECA’s values. We believe that European Club Football can be reformed from within the system to achieve the collective best interests of all stakeholders in the game. The Board reiterated ECA’s clear position as the only legitimate and fully recognized voice of the leading clubs in Europe and, as such, has taken a number of decisions to ensure that it is able to continue to perform its role efficiently and effectively.  

How did the Super League format look like?

The Super League would have been a 20-team league made up of 15 permanent members with the remaining five members of the league comprised of teams which qualified through domestic European League competition. The 20 teams would have competed in two groups of 10 teams each with a balanced schedule of home and away matches against every team in the group. 

The top three finishers in each group would’ve qualified for the quarterfinals, while the fourth- and fifth-place finishers would have played in a two-legged play-in round to qualify for the knockout stages. Then a two-legged knockout format would have been used to play down to the finals, which would have been a single match to crown a champion.  

From the Super League announcement:

  • 20 participating clubs with 15 Founding Clubs and a qualifying mechanism for a further five teams to qualify annually based on achievements in the prior season.
  • Midweek fixtures with all participating clubs continuing to compete in their respective national leagues, preserving the traditional domestic match calendar which remains at the heart of the club game.
  • An August start with clubs participating in two groups of 10, playing home and away fixtures, with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for the quarterfinals. Teams finishing fourth and fifth will then compete in a two-legged play-off for the remaining quarterfinal positions. A two-leg knockout format will be used to reach the final at the end of May, which will be staged as a single fixture at a neutral venue.

What would this mean for women’s soccer?

On Sunday, Paris Saint-Germain turned in a come-from-behind effort to slay five-time winner Lyon in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Women’s Champions League. PSG join Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Chelsea in the semifinal round. If a breakaway league had been formed, at least two semifinalists would have been in a new competition. The Super League had promised to begin play the shortly after the start of the men’s breakaway league.

«As soon as practicable after the start of the men’s competition, a corresponding women’s league will also be launched, helping to advance and develop the women’s game,» according to the announcement from the Super League.

Latest comments from players, coaches, execs

Pep Guardiola, Manchester City coach: «It’s not sport if it doesn’t matter if you lose.» More on his comments here.

Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool coach: «The most important part of football are the supporters and the team, and we have to make sure that really nothing gets in between them.»

Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea coach: «I’m here to be in the hardest competition, that’s why I came here, that’s what I love, to play in the toughest competitions in Europe. That’s why I’m at Chelsea.» More on his comments here.

Andrea Pirlo, Juventus coach: «Evaluations have been made about the Super League, but I don’t have to talk about it. We are confident because we have a cutting-edge president [Andrea Agnelli] who can explain these things and it is right for him to do so.»

James Milner, Liverpool vice-captain: «I don’t like it and I don’t want it to happen.»

Bruno Fernandes, Manchester United: «Dreams can’t be [bought],» the club’s leading scorer for this season said, via Instagram. 

Ander Herrera, PSG midfielder: «I love football and I cannot remain silent about this … I believe in an improved Champions League, but not in the rich stealing what the people created.

Mesut Ozil, ex-Arsenal star: «Kids grow up dreaming to win the World Cup and the Champions League — not any Super League. The enjoyment of big games is that they only happen once or twice a year, not every week. Really hard to understand for all football fans out there.»  

Gary Neville, Manchester United ex-captain: It’s «an absolute disgrace» … the club owners are «bottle merchants» motivated by «pure greed.»

Neville added during Sky Sports’ broadcast of the Premier League:

«I’m not against the modernization of football competitions, we have the Premier League, we have the Champions League.  

«But to bring forward proposals in the midst of COVID, in the midst of the economic crisis that exists for all clubs is an absolute scandal. United and the rest of the big six clubs that have signed up to it against the rest of the Premier League should be ashamed of themselves. Are Arsenal in that? They have just drawn with Fulham, Manchester United are drawing with Burnley. … To sign up to the Super League during a season is a joke, they should deduct points off all six of them.»  

Sir Alex Ferguson, legendary Manchester United coach: «Talk of a Super League is a move away from 70 years of European club football,» Ferguson told Reuters. «Both as a player for a provincial team Dunfermline in the 60s and as a manager at Aberdeen winning the European Cup Winners’ Cup, for a small provincial club in Scotland it was like climbing Mount Everest. Everton are spending £500 million to build a new stadium with the ambition to play in Champions League. Fans all over love the competition as it is. In my time at United, we played in four Champions League finals and they were always the most special of nights. I’m not sure Manchester United are involved in this, as I am not part of the decision making process. With many fans, we are concerned that this plan could create a closed shop at the very top of our national game.»

Luis Figo, ex-Sporting, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan star: This so-called «Super League» is anything but «Super,» Figo chimed in on Twitter on Monday. «This greedy and callous move would spell disaster for our grassroots, for women’s football, and the wider football community only to serve self-interested owners, who stopped caring about their fans long ago, and complete disregard for sporting merit. Tragic.»

Jamie Carragher, ex-Liverpool great: «Football takes you to a place nothing else can,» said Carragher, who is also an analyst for CBS Sports’ coverage of the Champions League. «The Super League will never take you to that place again.» 

For more player reaction, click here.

Latest updates from Europe’s political leaders

United Kingdom prime minister Boris Johnson issued the following statement of disapproval: «Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action. They would strike at the heart of the domestic game, and will concern fans across the country. The clubs involved must answer to their fans and the wider footballing community before taking any further steps.»

Johnson praised Chelsea and Manchester City after they backed away from the Super League.

Johnson, along with Keir Starmer, Labour Party leader, are drawing up potential government enforced consequences for clubs if they go ahead with the Super League, Alex Wickham of Politico reports

On Tuesday the U.K. government reiterated its stance issuing a statement.

The Prime Minister and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden met with representatives from the Football Association, the Premier League and football fan groups this morning to discuss action against the proposed European Super League.

He expressed his solidarity with football fans and agreed they must always be at the heart of any decisions about the future of the game.

He reiterated his unwavering support for the football authorities and confirmed they have the government’s full backing to take whatever action necessary to put a stop to these plans.

French president Emmanuel Macron is also condemning a breakaway league: «The President of the Republic welcomes the position of French clubs to refuse to participate in a European football Super League project threatening the principle of solidarity and sporting merit. The French State will support all steps taken by the LFP, FFF, UEFA and FIFA to protect the integrity of federal competitions, whether national or European.»

Italian prime minister Mario Draghi said on Monday he supports UEFA’s stance «to preserve national competitions, meritocratic values and the social function of sport.» Here’s what he said, according to ANSA:

«The government is carefully following the debate around the soccer Super League project and supports with determination the positions of the Italian and European soccer authorities to preserve national competitions, meritocratic values and the social function of sport»

Add the Spanish government and José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes, the country’s minister of culture and sports, among those opposing the Super League.

«The government of Spain does not support the initiative to create a soccer Super League promoted by several European clubs, including three Spanish clubs, because it understands that it has been conceived and proposed without counting on the representative organizations of this sport, both nationally and internationally.

What’s next?

Between boardroom reform, ownership changes and how to find the right balance between meaningful games between the best teams in a system that does not denigrate the sport’s identity, the fight for an improved European soccer product is probably far from over in the years to come. From CBS Sports’ James Benge, who examines what comes next:

While there is a clamor for change in ownership across the European game, particularly in England, there is fear of simply replacing one indifferent billionaire with another, or perhaps one that brings with them serious ethical questions such as those faced by Newcastle United supporters when Saudi Arabia backed a potential takeover. 

Instead, British supporter groups are putting their hopes in the U.K. government’s fan-led review, which culture secretary Oliver Dowden insisted will take place even after the breakaway league’s collapse. Previous Labour Party manifestos spoke of adding fan voices to the board and there is even hope that political intervention could bring about a version of Germany’s 50+1 rule that mandates a controlling stake for supporters.

It’s safe to say there’s plenty of fallout and changes to come from this botched experiment.

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