By Raphael Oni
The breakaway Super League effectively collapsed late Tuesday night as all six English Premier League clubs pulled out leaving. The hurricane hit the super league with the exodus of the English teams pullout, cutting the Super League down to Spain’s Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid plus Italy’s Juventus, Internazionale and Milan.
Manchester City set the ball rolling with a formal statement after Chelsea had earlier signalled their intentions to prepare documentation to withdraw. Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham quickly followed suit
City said they had “formally enacted the procedures to withdraw”, Liverpool said their involvement “has been discontinued”, while United said they had “listened carefully to the reaction from our fans, the UK government and other key stakeholders”.
Arsenal was the only club to apologise, saying they had “made a mistake” and had now heeded their fans and the “wider football community”; north London neighbours Tottenham, in the words of Chairman Daniel Levy, said the club regretted the “anxiety and upset” aroused. The six clubs were announced on Sunday as founder members of the breakaway midweek competition.
Florentino Perez, the Real Madrid President who Chairs the Super League, pulled out of an interview with a Spanish television station in the wake of a meeting following the English retreat. Juventus denied reports that Andrea Agnelli, one of the leading plotters, had resigned as president.
Barcelona sources indicated that the club’s board would put Super League participation to a vote among members’ representatives – expected to be negative.
The 12 clubs were understood to have signed 20-year non-negotiable contracts but speculation had been growing since early Tuesday that at least the two of the English contingent were having second thoughts.
Simultaneously it emerged that Ed Woodward will resign as executive vice-chairman of Manchester United at the season’s end. Supposedly this was not related to the Super League furore and that the timing was entirely coincidental.
The other 14 member clubs of the Premier League met on Tuesday and issued a powerful statement repudiating the Super League and urging the six to step back. This matched similar warnings – or appeals – earlier in the day from FIFA president Gianni Infantino and UEFA supremo Aleksander Ceferin.
The heads of the world and European governing bodies condemned the Super League breakaway but suggested it was not too late to understand that, in Infantino’s words, they could not be “half-in and half-out.”
Fans then came out to swarm around Stamford Bridge in protest against Chelsea’s involvement in the Super League ahead of the night’s goalless home draw against Brighton. Ironically the point edged Chelsea back among the top four who qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League
Manchester City’s exit followed powerful statements in favour of the status quo by manager Pep Guardiola and captain Kevin de Bruyne.
Guardiola said: “It is not a sport where the relation between the effort and the success, the effort and the reward, does not exist. It is not a sport where success is already guaranteed or it is not a sport when it doesn’t matter where you lose.
Mark Bullingham, chief executive of the Football Association, was also firm in the FA’s stance after a telephone exchange with Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He reminded the six that the FA held the clubs’ competition licences and that disciplinary measures would include a refusal to grant work permit for foreign star players who no longer qualify for freedom of entry since the UK left the European Union.