Jürgen Klopp has criticised the European Super League plan being pursued by his own employers at Liverpool but insisted Fifa and Uefa are also driven by greed and require fundamental change.
The Liverpool manager stated his opposition to any super league in 2019 and confirmed his stance has not changed in light of Sunday’s announcement by 12 European breakaway clubs. Klopp is unhappy at the lack of competitiveness in the proposed league, with 15 self-appointed founding members having permanent residence in the competition, and the division it has already created between Liverpool supporters and the club owned by Fenway Sports Group.
He was also angry at Leeds’ players warming up before tonight’s Premier League match at Elland Road in T-shirts stating: “Football is for the fans. Earn it.”
John W Henry, FSG’s principal owner, Liverpool chairman Tom Werner and FSG president Mike Gordon did not put their name to the statement on the club’s website confirming they had signed up to the deal, and it was left to Klopp to address the controversial decision taken by his employers when interviewed by Sky Sports before the Leeds’ game. The man who ended Liverpool’s 30-year wait for the league title last season appears to be on a collision course with FSG.
“My opinion didn’t change,” he said when reminded of his previous opposition to a super league. “It’s a tough one. People are not happy with that and I can understand that, but I cannot say a lot more because we were not involved in any processes, not the players and not me. We didn’t know about it. That is the case. The facts are out there and now we have to wait and see how it develops.”
Liverpool fans protested against the breakaway outside Anfield on Monday, and at Elland Road, while supporters groups responsible for decorating the Kop during lockdown are to remove their banners and flags this week in protest. Spion Kop 1906 announced on Twitter: “We feel we can no longer give our support to a club which puts financial greed above integrity of the game.”
Klopp added: “I’m 53 years old and since I was a professional player the Champions League was there. I obviously have no issues with the Champions League. I like the competitive fact of football as well. I like the fact that West Ham might play Champions League next year. I don’t want them to, to be honest, because we want that, but I like that they have the chance. What can I say? It’s really not easy.
“What I want to say is, I heard a few things, and what I don’t like is Liverpool Football Club is much more than some decisions. The most important part of football are the supporters and the team. We have to make sure that really nothing gets inbetween that. I heard we have put the banners down at Anfield. I don’t understand this because the players didn’t do anything wrong. We didn’t win all the games but we go with everything and we want to qualify for the Champions League next year. We have to stick together.
“When people from other clubs use our anthem against us I don’t like that as well. We can show that nobody has to walk alone in these moments. There are things we have to sort, obviously, but they have nothing to do with the football and the relationship between the supporters and the team. That for me is really important. In tough times you have to show you stick together. That doesn’t mean you have to agree to everything but, again, the boys didn’t do anything wrong apart from not winning all football games. I really want everyone to know that.”
Klopp has been a vocal critic of the increased demands being placed on top internationals and, while against the principle of a closed-shop super league, insists reform is overdue in football. He believes Uefa and Fifa are driven by greed as much as club owners.
“I understand it,” he said of fans’ frustrations. “I get it but I’m in a different position. I don’t know exactly why the 12 clubs did it. I know some things will change in the future in football and some things have to change in football. That’s for sure as well – where the power is and stuff like that. That’s not right. Uefa cannot just decide things as well. Fifa cannot just decide things. Everybody plans new competitions. Uefa wants the Champions League. They showed it to me. I told them: ‘There are more games in it so I don’t like it.’ This was months ago and anyway they do it. I don’t expect them not to do it because I don’t like it but they showed it to me and it happens anyway. It is always more games and more games.
“If you tell me about the clubs that it’s about money, what do you think it is about for Uefa? Fifa wants a Club World Cup, whenever that should be, it’s about money and nothing else. All these things happen, it’s not only the clubs. Some things have to change and some things will change. Usually you have to prepare these kind of things, so it needs time for convincing, but one thing I can understand if people think it is not right is the competitiveness. I get that. I don’t like that we might not be in the Champions League but if we earn it we want to be there like anybody else.”