The announcement by major European football clubs that they plan to join a breakaway European Super League sparked furious reactions on Sunday, with French President Emmanuel Macron and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson both issuing statements condemning the breakaway.
Macron took an immediate stance against the move. "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 Élysée Palace told AFP.
The UK’s Johnson said via his official Twitter account: “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.”
The Premier League, English Football Association (FA), players’ union and fans’ groups were also quick to voice their disapproval at the idea of a closed breakaway league.
Real Madrid, Manchester City, Chelsea banned from 2021’s Champions League semi-finals?
Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham are among 12 teams to sign up to the plan, also featuring Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan.
Breakaway Super League clubs Real Madrid, Manchester City and Chelsea are likely be banned from this season's Champions League semi-finals, UEFA executive committee member Jesper Moller told Danish broadcaster DR on Monday.
"The clubs must go, and I expect that to happen on Friday. Then we have to find out how to finish (this season's) Champions League tournament," said Moller, who is the head of the Danish FA.
"There is an extraordinary executive committee meeting on Friday," he said. Moller's comments came shortly after UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said he wanted bans on the rebel clubs to be imposed.
"We're still assessing with our legal team but we will take all the sanctions that we can and we will inform you as soon we can," he said. "My opinion is that as soon as possible they have to be banned from all our competitions and the players from all our competitions," Ceferin told reporters.
On Monday, UEFA are due to announce changes to the Champions League format from 2024, which were seen as a measure to dissuade a breakaway and appease the continent’s biggest clubs, who are seeking greater revenue from more matches against each other.
Europe’s premier club competition is expected to expand from 32 to 36 clubs with a minimum of 10 games for each team.
However, the 12 breakaway clubs have been lured by a €3.5 billion pot just for signing up.
“A European Super League will undermine the appeal of the whole game, and have a deeply damaging impact on 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,” the Premier League said in a statement.
“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.”
The FA said a closed league would “attack the principles of open competition and sporting merit” and repeated a threat by FIFA that players who participate in such a competition could be banned from representing their countries at international level.
“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,” said the FA.
Leading former players were also scathing about the proposal.
Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand described the plan as “a war on football”.
Ferdinand told BT Sport: “It’s a disgrace. It’s embarrassing, it goes against everything football is about. It’s a closed shop and is only about one thing – money.”
Former Manchester United captain Gary Neville, who said the new league was based on “pure greed”, called for Premier League points deductions and removal from the Champions League for the clubs involved, who still plan to take part in domestic competitions if allowed.
In a statement, the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust said: “A ‘Super League’ based on a closed shop of self-selected wealthy clubs goes against everything football, and Manchester United, should stand for.”
“To bring forward these proposals without any fan consultation, and in the midst of a global pandemic when people should be pulling together not serving their own selfish interests, just adds insult to injury.”
Plans for a wide-ranging reform of English football backed by Manchester United and Liverpool were rejected by Premier League clubs in October 2020.
Under the controversial proposals, the number of teams in the English top flight would have been cut from 20 to 18 and the League Cup scrapped.
More power would have been handed to the biggest clubs in exchange for a large financial compensation package and a greater share of broadcast revenues for the English Football League (EFL).
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)