The controversial plans for a European Super League (ESL), comprising 15 elite clubs from the top leagues in England, Spain and Italy, were quashed following frenzied resistance from football fans across Europe.
Club owners had plans to create a new format to rival the Champions League but it has received widespread condemnation from supporters, protesting against the idea of a ‘closed-shop’ league. Fans feel it is a cash-cow for the clubs’ owners at the expense of fair competition and will undoubtedly have an impact on fan participation and funding for grassroots football.
Backlash from the Players
In England, the battle-cry against the proposed plans were led by Sky-Sports pundits and ex-footballers Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville, who vocalised their disdain for the owners of their former clubs Liverpool and Manchester United. Carragher described Liverpool owner, Fenway Sports Group, as ‘burning the histories of football clubs’ in an attempt to ‘line their own pockets’.
Moreover, Neville described the action of the Glazer family (Man Utd) as a ‘criminal act’ which was ‘an attack on every football fan in the country’ and encouraged supporters, pundits and players across Europe to ‘mobilise and come together’ as well as write to local Members of Parliament (MPs) in attempt to overturn the plans. This call to arms was shared by Match of the Day presenter and former Barcelona and England striker Gary Lineker, who tweeted that ‘football is nothing without the fans’ and called for people to ‘stand as one against the anti-football pyramid scheme’. Even the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prince William voiced their concerns over the new plans.
Damaging to Smaller Teams
These views were also shared by ex-Man City player and current Bristol Rovers manager Joey Barton who highlighted how the new league might impact the financing of smaller teams in England. Several other ex-players and pundits weighed in to comment on the ESL. Former Blackburn and Chelsea striker Chris Sutton dismissed the ESL plans as ‘nonsense’, particularly as they removed the possibility of future ‘David vs Goliath’ matches between elite teams and those from lower leagues. It could mean that past epics like Norwich’s 2-1 win against Bayern Munich in 1993 could be a thing of the past.
Many believe national leagues should retaliate against the clubs involved in ESL plans, including the Premier League’s record goalscorer and former England Striker Alan Shearer who suggested banning the teams involved. Shearer believes that “the 12 clubs dropped a huge grenade on sport and the Premier League should respond with a Grenade of their own.” Former Manchester United legend Roy Keane praised the actions of German giants Bayern Munich for distancing themselves from the proposed plans and attributed the motivation behind the ESL as ‘coming down to money, greed’.
Although initial fury has dissipated now that nine teams have agreed to withdraw, there are suspicions that revised plans for the ESL may be announced in the coming months.