Football Fans celebrate collapse of European Super League plan
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Fans celebrate collapse of European Super League plan

Chelsea fans protest against Chelsea's decision to be included amongst the clubs attempting to form a new European Super League. The plan collapsed late on Wednesday. AAP
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The European Super League has collapsed as eight of the 12 founding members from England, Italy and Spain abandoned the breakaway project under massive pressure from fans, politicians, soccer officials and even the British royals.

Founder and Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli told Reuters on Wednesday that he was reluctantly calling time on the new league after six English clubs withdrew on Tuesday, with Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid following suit and AC Milan indicating they would too.

“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,” the Italian club said in a statement.

Protest banners outside Liverpool’s Anfield ground. Photo: AAP

Agnelli’s beautiful project

Agnelli said he still believed in the merits of the Super League despite the overwhelming criticism and had no regrets about how the breakaway had been conducted.

“I remain convinced of the beauty of that project,” Agnelli said, adding it would have been the best competition in the world.

The Super League argued it would increase revenue for the top soccer clubs in Europe and allow them to distribute more money to the rest of the game.

But the sport’s governing bodies, other teams and fan organisations said the league would only boost the power and wealth of elite clubs, and that the partially closed structure went against European football’s long-standing model.

Grafiti entitled “The failed coup” (Il Golpe Fallito) by Italian artist Laika, showing Juventus President Andrea Agnelli puncturing a football. Photo: Getty

Boris Johnson welcomes collapse

Players, fans, pundits and politicians celebrated the U-turns of the English teams on Tuesday that left the league in tatters and pushed other founding members to jump ship.

“This is the right result for football fans, clubs, and communities across the country. We must continue to protect our cherished national game,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

Britain’s Prince William, President of the English Football Association, who had criticised the planned breakaway on Monday, said in a signed tweet: “I’m glad the united voice of football fans has been heard and listened to.”

The founding members were Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur from England, AC Milan, Inter and Juventus from Italy and Spain’s Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Barcelona and Real Madrid may demand break fees

Barcelona and Real Madrid were the only two founders yet to issue official statements by Wednesday evening.

Two sources told Reuters they could yet enforce break-up fees on the clubs that have withdrawn.

Liverpool’s principal owner John Henry apologised in a video on the club’s website and social media on Wednesday, while Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer and Manchester City chief executive Ferran Soriano also apologised to fans.

“I alone am responsible for the unnecessary negativity brought forward over the past couple of days. It’s something I won’t forget. And shows the power the fans have today and will rightly continue to have,” said a contrite Henry.

“What a beautiful day for football. Let’s keep playing, let’s keep fighting, let’s keep dreaming,” said Manchester City defender Benjamin Mendy.

Greed defeated, say opponents

The news dominated the front page of Wednesday’s newspapers in Britain.

“Defeat of Greed”, declared the Daily Mail‘s front page headline while the i newspaper summed up the withdrawal as “Own Goal”.

Amid celebrations over the collapse of the project, anger remained. Some pundits said the owners of the English teams would never be forgiven.

“They were going to sell the souls of our major football institutions,” said Liverpool great Graeme Souness.

“I don’t know how these clubs will manage to get back on-side.”