Gary Neville has blasted the top six’s plan to join the breakaway European Super League as an ‘absolute scandal’ after Sportsmail revealed the plan to announce the project on Sunday evening.
The Big Six in England: Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham all signed letters declaring their intention to join, which would end competition in domestic and continental football as fans know it.
However UEFA, the Premier League and others came together to oppose the plan, with European governing body UEFA insisting they would take legal action against the ‘cynical project’ if it went ahead.
UEFA’s Champions League is under serious threat of a breakaway league of the top teams
News of English football’s Big Six planning to breakaway will be extremely damaging for UEFA
And Manchester United icon Gary Neville blasted the proposed plan as an ‘absolute scandal’
UEFA STATEMENT IN FULL
UEFA, the English Football Association and the Premier League, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and LaLiga, and the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and Lega Serie A have learned that a few English, Spanish and Italian clubs may be planning to announce their creation of a closed, so-called Super League.
If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we – UEFA, the English FA, RFEF, FIGC, the Premier League, LaLiga, 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.
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 thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this. 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.
And pundits reacted furiously, with Manchester United icon Neville not holding back on the actions of his former employers during their match against Burnley on the afternoon of Sunday 18.
He said: ‘I’m not against the modernisation of football competition, but to bring forward proposals in the wake of Covid is an absolute scandal. United and the rest of the big six clubs that have signed up to it should be ashamed of themselves.
‘Are Arsenal in the league? They’ve just drawn to Fulham. United aren’t beating Burnley. I can’t concentrate on this game. The six English clubs should have points docked from them this season. It’s an absolute joke.’
Neville’s former United team-mate Roy Keane added at half-time: ‘It comes down to money, greed. Obviously we’ve heard nothing from FIFA yet but it doesn’t sound good, let’s hope they stop it in its tracks because it is just pure greed.
‘We talk about big clubs – Bayern Munich are one of the biggest clubs in the world. At least they’ve made a stand, which is a good start.’
Fellow pundit Micah Richards continued: ‘I agree with Roy. The Premier League has been run amazingly. We all know clubs are an investment, it’s a business at the end of the day but what happens to the fans?
‘What happens to the memories the fans have had over the years, they’re just forgotten about for the sake of money? That’s the way football has become now and it’s an absolute disgrace if I’m honest.’
The new league – the news of which comes less than 24 hours before UEFA’s own proposals for a revamped Champions League – would highlight the American takeover of top-level European football, which would become a closed shop run by founder members.
The plan is for the Super League to evolve to roughly 15-18 teams, but the initial 12 signatories to the deal are the six English clubs.
Plus Spain’s Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid and Italy’s Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan. This leaves room for other major clubs like Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain to be picked off with UEFA’s own competitions hugely devalued.
In a statement on Sunday, the Premier League condemned proposals that they feel ‘attacks the principles of open competition and sporting merit’.
‘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,’ the statement continued. ‘We believe the concept of a European Super League would destroy this dream.’
The six clubs are not intending to resign from domestic football, but need Premier League permission to join any new competitions. This could be the first sticking point because the Premier League board is unlikely to grant any request that weakens its own competitive value.
If they say no to the European Super League, as expected, the clubs will have to be break away from the Premier League entirely in order to join, putting in jeopardy their players’ participation in UEFA and FIFA competitions, such as the World Cup and European Championships.
Liverpool owner John W Henry will act as one of the European Super League’s vice-chairman
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters wrote a letter to clubs warning them to walk away from European Super League plans before ‘irreparable damage is done’
A letter sent to clubs by Premier League chief Richard Masters warned those involved to ‘walk away…before irreparable damage is done’, before adding clubs would need Premier League permission to enter a new competition – and Masters wrote ‘I cannot envisage any scenario where such permission would be granted.’
Fan groups were quick to come out and join the condemnation of the news that the Big Six are keen to join, with the the Football Supporters’ Association describing the European Super League as a project motivated ‘by nothing but cynical greed’.
Their statement said: ‘This competition is being created behind our backs by billionaire club owners who have zero regard for the game’s traditions and continue to treat football as their personal fiefdom. The FSA, and no doubt supporters across the continent, will continue to fight against its creation.’
FansEurope added in their own statement that the Super League ‘is illegitimate, irresponsible, and anti-competitive by design.’
RICHARD MASTERS’ LETTER
Dear Chairman/Chief Executive,
I am writing to inform you of what we believe to be an imminent announcement of a European Super League concept, potentially involving a number of Premier League Clubs alongside others from Spain and Italy.
Based on our understanding of the proposed European Super League concept it would sit outside the auspices of UEFA and the current European sporting pyramid, offering 15 founding members permanent access from as early as season 2022/23, rather than via the historic access principles of annual sporting merit.
The Premier League Board met this morning and I wanted to make clear its position based on the information we have at our disposal. Such a European Super League would be deeply damaging to the European pyramid, the immediate and future prospects of the Premier League and its member Clubs and all those in football who rely on our funding and solidarity to prosper.
We believe such a concept would be hugely unpopular with football fans across the continent, in particular here in England, where progress via sporting merit is central to the history and traditions of the national game and the rightful aspirations of all Clubs and their fans. We do not and cannot support such a concept.
Premier League Rules contain a commitment amongst Clubs to remain within the football pyramid and forbid any Clubs from entering competitions beyond those listed in Rule L9, without Premier League Board permission.
I cannot envisage any scenario where such permission would be granted. It is the duty of the Premier League Board to defend the integrity and future prospects of the League as a whole, and we will have no choice but to do everything we can to protect and maintain both.
The consequences of attempting to proceed with a European Super League would be the immediate destabilisation of the Premier League and the English game as a whole, at a time when it needs precisely the opposite.
This is a time when English football should be coming together as we emerge from the extraordinary challenges of the pandemic. As previously evidenced, we would expect complete condemnation from all parts of the game, fan groups and the UK Government.
This venture cannot be launched without English Clubs and we call upon any Club contemplating associating themselves or joining this venture to walk away immediately before irreparable damage is done.
A media statement will be issued on behalf of the Premier League and, should the announcement go ahead, we will call a meeting of Clubs to discuss the immediate implications and the Board’s recommended response.
Both Gary and I are available to talk you through what we reliably know at this stage.
Richard Masters, Chief Executive