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‘We let you down’: Liverpool’s Billionaire American owner’s grovelling apology over Super League


Ed Woodward resigns from Manchester United as fans demand ALL the super-rich ‘men in grey suits’ at the Big 6 clubs also get the push

Ed Woodward – Man United vice-chairman – RESIGNED

In a sign of a potential split at Manchester United, it was tonight announced the club’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward would leave the club

Mr Woodward, the Manchester United chief, became the first victim of the collapsed European Super League on Tuesday night as it emerged he is to quit Old Trafford.

Club sources said that Woodward was planning to leave at the end of the year anyway — and is set to remain until then — but the announcement had been brought forward.

However, it is hard to see how Woodward’s departure is not linked to the despised European Super League which began to crumble on Tuesday when Manchester City and Chelsea initiated moves to pull out of the venture, before all six English clubs confirmed their intention to stay away.

Woodward was a key figure in fiercely controversial plans for the new breakaway league, with his links to US investment bank JP Morgan helping to secure the £4.3billion in financing.  

Ferran Soriano – Chief Executive – Man City    

Ferran Soriano with his wife Sandra Martorell in Subai in 2019

Ferran Soriano with his wife Sandra Martorell in Subai in 2019

City were the first club to send in a withdrawal letter. The Premier League leaders were thought to have been the last club to sign up and felt ‘backed into a corner’.

The initial decision to sign up caused considerable internal tension at City, with staff privately branding Monday’s two-line email sent from chief executive Ferran Soriano as ‘laughable’. 

Soriano invited employees to ask any questions at the next staff meeting, a date for which was never set. 

Bruce Buck – Chairman – Chelsea 

Chelsea's American chairman Bruce Buck

Chelsea’s American chairman Bruce Buck

Huge numbers of fans swamped Stamford Bridge yesterday, many calling for Bruce Buck to go.

Club sources have claimed that the decision to pull out was taken before the yelling started, and that some players had explained their concerns to the chairman Bruce Buck in the morning, but plainly the supporters played a part.

Buck was seen snatching a phone from a member of staff during the match with Brighton last night. 

One banner implored: ‘Roman, do the right thing’. Another read: ‘CFC RIP 1905-2021’. A chant took hold near them and went directly after the muppet at Real Madrid who was behind so much of this nonsense: ‘Florentino Perez is a c***’.

Vinai Venkatesham – Chief Executive – Arsenal

British-Indian executive Venkatesham joined Arsenal in 2010 - but fabns want him out

British-Indian executive Venkatesham joined Arsenal in 2010 – but fabns want him out

 British-Indian executive Venkatesham joined Arsenal back in March of 2010 and has held various roles within the club during his eight-and-a-half years there. He originally joined as the club’s Head of Global Partnerships and within four years, he was promoted to Chief Commercial Officer.

On top of that, over the last two years he has acted as the Non Executive Director of both the British Olympic Association and 2017 IAAF World Championships & World ParaAthletics Championships – the latter of which he was also an Audit Committee Member.

Additionally, he was the Commercial Manager for London 2012 where he lead negotiations for various sponsorship, hospitality, merchandising and broadcast deals including Adidas, BT, Cadburys, Channel 4 and Thomas Cook.

He had a similar commercial impact on Arsenal, negotiating the club’s kit deal with Puma and securing the Emirates’ renewed sponsorship of their stadium. 

Daniel Levy – Chairman – Spurs 

Daniel Levy, who sacked Jose Mourinho this week, also faces calls to go

Daniel Levy, who sacked Jose Mourinho this week, also faces calls to go

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is in the firing line again with fans.

He has said officials ‘regret the anxiety and upset caused by the ESL proposal,’ while explaining the finances on offer were too good to turn down initially.

From across north London, Arsenal issued an open letter to fans.

‘We made a mistake, and we apologize for it,’ said the club which is owned by Stan Kroenke. ‘We know it will take time to restore your faith in what we are trying to achieve here at Arsenal but let us be clear that the decision to be part of the Super League was driven by our desire to protect Arsenal, the club you love, and to support the game you love through greater solidarity and financial stability’.

Billy Hogan – Chief Executive – Liverpool

Billy Hogan had backed the ESL this week

Billy Hogan had backed the ESL this week

John W Henry apologised to American-born Mr Hogan today but fans believe he is also to blame.

On Monday Hogan released a club statement saying the #EuropeanSuperLeague was the future of football, and they were going ahead with it despite the ‘strong feelings within the game and elsewhere’.

There was also fury because it disrupted the preparations for the club’s crucial game with Leeds, which ended 1-1, after which manager Jurgen Klopp was forced to field question on the ESL, which he is against. 

Liverpool’s American billionaire boss John W Henry today apologised for the ‘hurt’ caused by plans to join the hated European Super League but vowed not to sell up as the Premier League considers how to punish the rebels with fans baying for blood and demanding the heads of their ‘traitor’ owners and chief executives.

The businessman, who also owns the Boston Red Sox, also said sorry to the club’s manager Jürgen Klopp and his players as the £4.3billion proposal crumbled when England’s ‘Big 6’ were forced to pull out amid mass protests outside their stadiums and Boris Johnson threatening to change the law to stop it.

The Big Six rebels have each lost £8million they each paid to sign to the doomed ESL, which ended in a humiliating defeat last night where they all caved in in the space of three hours last night.

After 72 hours of silence, Henry became the first ‘greedy’ club owner to speak out as fans called for heads to roll and threatened coups to overthrow the billionaires accused of trying to destroy England’s 132-year-old football pyramid.

His apology is seen as an attempt to convince the Premier League not to give them a points deduction as his team battles to get into the Champions League and try to protect his own position at the reigning Premier League champions.

But in a sign that they will face severe punishment, Crystal Palace co-owner Steve Parish, one of the 14 Premier League clubs not involved, said today: ‘Make no mistake… this was an attempted coup, an attempt to steal football’. Brighton chief executive Paul Barber has called on the Premier League to take immediate action, saying: ‘There’s a lot of bridges that now need to be rebuilt and it needs to be the six clubs back to the 14’. 

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden today hinted at a new ‘Ofball’ watchdog for English football and giving greater say for fans in running of their clubs routinely seen in Germany where supporters are on every board. 

In a video message shared on the Liverpool website, Mr Henry, worth £2billion ($2.8 billion) said: ‘I want to apologise to all the fans and supporters of Liverpool Football Club for the disruption I caused over the past 48 hours.

‘It goes without saying but should be said that the project put forward was never going to stand without the support of the fans. No-one ever thought differently in England. Over these 48 hours you were very clear that it would not stand. We heard you. I heard you’.

Bookies yesterday made Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp favourite to be the next Premier League boss to resign after he expressed his displeasure about the plans and club captain Jordan Henderson set up an emergency meeting with Premier League captains as players threatened insurrection. 

Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, believed to have brokered the deal backed by £4.3billion in loans from JP Morgan, his former employer, resigned last night as his billionaire boss Joel Glazer attempted the rescue his reputation. But the club’s supporters are calling for Glazer to sell up and fans of Manchester City, Spurs, Liverpool and Arsenal are also threatening to topple their mainly-foreign owners. 

Chelsea fans delayed kick off having blocked the path of their team’s coach as it tried to get into Stamford Bridge for the game with Brighton last night, forcing former goalkeeper Petr Cech to plead with them to move. Many held up banners calling for Bruce Buck, their American chairman, to be fired by Roman Abramovich.

There are also calls for the heads of the men in grey suits at the other clubs: Man City’s chief executive Ferran Soriano, Arsenal’s chief executive Vinai Venkatesham, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy and Liverpool’s chief executive Billy Hogan. 

Attempting to repair some of the damage at his own club, John Henry said:  ‘I want to apologise to Jürgen, Billy (Hogan) to the players and to everyone who works so hard at LFC to make our fans proud. They have absolutely no responsibility for this disruption. They were the most disrupted and unfairly so. This is what hurts most. They love your club and work to make you proud every single day’.  

He added: ‘If there’s one thing this horrible pandemic has clearly shown, it’s how crucial fans are to our sport and to every sport. It’s shown in every empty stadium. It’s been an incredibly tough year for all of us; virtually no-one unaffected. It’s important that the Liverpool football family remains intact, vital and committed to what we’ve seen from you globally, with local gestures of kindness and support. I can promise you I will do whatever I can to further that’.

In a bid to appease furious fans, Arsenal issued grovelling apology to its supporters, who yesterday protested outside the club’s ground with fans calling for their American owner Stan Kroenke to quit. ‘We made a mistake, and we apologise for it’, it said in a statement. 

The other clubs issued anodyne statements last night as their ‘coup’ collapsed, with their supporters demanding fulsome apologies today.

All options are on the table when it comes to punishing the Big Six – but the likelihood is that a rule change to prevent them from ever repeating the trick is the most likely next step by the Premier League, MailOnline understands. Ahead of the mass withdrawals, penalties were discussed at the hastily-arranged meeting of the other 14 yesterday. Points deductions, fines, relegation and bans on players were all raised. 

As the billionaire ‘Big 6’ owners scrambled to save their own skins, it also emerged today:

  • Exclusive: The Big Six rebels have lost tens of millions between them in their disastrous attempts to set up a European Super League. Sportsmail has learned that the ‘dirty dozen’ bought stakes of around £8million each, which is now down the toilet;
  • Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden hints at new ‘Ofball’ watchdog for English football and greater say for fans in running of their clubs. UK government and football leaders also expected to push through reforms to prevent a coup of this nature happening again;
  • Juventus chief Agnelli admits that Super League can no longer go ahead after six English clubs withdrew, hours after saying the league would ‘100%’ happen with deals ‘signed in blood’; 
  • The Premier League is considering how to punish the clubs and is considering points deductions, fines, relegation and bans on players after the clubs broke the league’s rules. Uefa is also pondering how to hurt the rebels;
  • Crystal Palace co-owner Steve Parish hints at punishment, saying: ‘Make no mistake… this was an attempted coup, an attempt to steal football’. Brighton chief executive Paul Barber has called on the Premier League to now take ‘appropriate action’; 
  • Liverpool supporters will keep their vast array of banners and flags on The Kop when their beloved team face Newcastle on Saturday, after the club performed a dramatic U-turn and pulled out of the European Super League
  • Ed Woodward resigned from his role as Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman as clubs’s stock market value plunged by around £150million as Super League plans he helped cook up collapsed;
  • American bank JP Morgan, the main investors in the league in deal with Woodward at its centre, is picking up the pieces of its reputation in UK and Europe after brokering the finances of the hated League –  but refuses to apologise; 

The Big Six rebels have lost tens of millions between them in their disastrous attempts to set up a European Super League, which ended in a humiliating defeat last night. Sportsmail has learned that the 12 Founding Clubs who announced the venture on Sunday evening purchased equity stakes of around £8million each in the Super League, which its creators ultimately hoped to turn into global competition that would dominate club football.

For Real Madrid president Florentino Perez and Manchester United’s outgoing chairman Ed Woodward the ESL was just the first step in their vision for creating a global franchise, with the prospect of setting up similar invitation-only Super Leagues in South America, Asia and Africa at some point in the future under consideration if the initial European tournament went well. There were even discussions about potentially creating a World Championship involving winners of the various continental leagues in a direct challenge to FIFA’s Club World Cup, which was founded 21 years ago and the world governing body are planning to expand.

The equity stakes purchased by the 12 rebel clubs were being used to create the new competition’s infrastructure and fund crucial roles such as negotiating with potential broadcasters, commercial partners and pay legal fees.

Liverpool's American billionaire owner John W Henry today apologised for the 'hurt' caused by plans to join the hated European Super League as the Premier League considers how to punish the rebels with fans baying for blood

Liverpool’s American billionaire owner John W Henry today apologised for the ‘hurt’ caused by plans to join the hated European Super League as the Premier League considers how to punish the rebels with fans baying for blood

Henry also apologised to Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, amid rumours that he was considering his position

Henry also apologised to Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, amid rumours that he was considering his position

Banners and football scarves are tied to the fences around Anfield Stadium, the home of Liverpool Football Club, before the American owner issued a humbling apology

Banners and football scarves are tied to the fences around Anfield Stadium, the home of Liverpool Football Club, before the American owner issued a humbling apology

Banners declaring the death of Liverpool and demanding its American owners are slung out were tied to the fences around Anfield Stadium, the home of Liverpool Football Club, before the American owner John Henry issued a humbling apology

All six English clubs involved in the European Super League have quit the hated competition, after Manchester City became the first club to walk away with huge protests outside Chelsea's Stamford Bridge last night, delaying the kick off of their match with Brighton

All six English clubs involved in the European Super League have quit the hated competition, after Manchester City became the first club to walk away with huge protests outside Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge last night, delaying the kick off of their match with Brighton

Furious Chelsea fans made their anger at the Super League known, with some demanding the head of American chairman Bruce Buck

Furious Chelsea fans made their anger at the Super League known, with some demanding the head of American chairman Bruce Buck

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave a thumbs up as he arrived for work this morning after Woodward resigned

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave a thumbs up as he arrived for work this morning after Woodward resigned

Boris Johnson said the collapse of the project was 'the right result' for football after an extraordinary 48 hours

Boris Johnson said the collapse of the project was ‘the right result’ for football after an extraordinary 48 hours 

Super League chief admits defeat: Andrea Agnelli, the breakaway group’s founder, finally says ESL CAN’T go ahead 

Breakaway European Super League founder and Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli has said that the league can no longer go ahead after six English clubs withdrew.

Twelve founding members had joined up to the breakaway tournament late on Sunday night but the move caused fury with fans, media and politicians all getting involved in a bid to stop it from going ahead.

Just 48 hours after the announcement, the Super League was officially suspended after all six Premier League clubs formally pulled out from their commitments – Manchester City and Chelsea first, then Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham.  

Asked whether the project could still happen after the exits, Agnelli told Reuters: ‘To be frank and honest no, evidently that is not the case.’  

Agnelli said he remained convinced that European football needed change and he had no regrets about the way the breakaway attempt was made.

‘I remain convinced of the beauty of that project,’ Agnelli said, stating it would have created the best competition in the world.

It is unclear how much of the money has been spent, and if any of it will be returned now the ESL has collapsed less than three days after its launch, which was confirmed this morning when Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli said that the competition could no longer proceed without the six Premier League clubs.

Asked whether the project could still happen after the exits, Agnelli told Reuters: ‘To be frank and honest no, evidently that is not the case. I remain convinced of the beauty of that project. But admittedly I don’t think that that project is now still up and running.’

The Premier League’s Big Six could also be forced to pay compensation to the six other European Founding Clubs for breaking a clause in the ESL’s 23-year contract which stated they could not leave for its first three years, but given the competition’s swift and spectacular implosion it is unclear whether the clause will be enforced.

Top flight rules state that clubs should ‘act in good faith’ and this was clearly a serious breach.

JP Morgan REFUSES to apologise for offering to pour billions into doomed ESL that upset millions of supporters globally

JP Morgan is in the firing line for its role in financing the hated European Super League deal with the promised of £4.3billion – but refused to apologise today.

The US investment bank had promised each club up to £300million each if the league went ahead – but it is not clear if any money has changed hands.

But as the league crumbled the investment bank, with links to the Glazers and Man United’s outgoing executive Ed Woodward, JPM refused to comment on any aspect of the deal when approached by MailOnline.

A spokesman also declined to comment on whether it was willing to apologise for its role in the matter, if it was pulling plug and whether any of its staff would be punished for their role in agreeing to put up the loans.

JP Morgan has been accused of being at the heart of the deal that would ‘destroy English football’ and take it away from the fans.

An insider told MailOnline: ‘We are financing the deal, but we have always understood that this deal will be driven by what is right for the world of football’.  

However – and importantly – there was very much the shared view that the six clubs themselves were not at fault and that their owners – rather than players and staff – should be targeted.

What happens next remains to be seen, but the overriding initial emotion will be one of relief, rather than vengeance.

Draconian measures such as relegation are unlikely, as the competition knows the benefits the Big Six bring.

Instead, expect moves to be made to reinforce the top flight’s rules and ensure no such breakaway attempt can happen again.

That is not to say there will not be other ramifications.

The presence of Big Six representatives on Premier League commercial and broadcast working groups triggered outrage – and a deep suspicion that they had been squirrelling away information to use for breakaway purposes. Those involved may well find themselves booted off such groups. Trust, according to one insider ‘is at an all-time low’.

The six may also end up having to explain themselves to a parliamentary committee. While there may be little penalty, a public grilling by MPs could make for an uncomfortable and embarrassing hour or so. 

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber has called on the Premier League to now take appropriate action against the ‘Big Six’ clubs who sought to break away to the European Super League.

The doomed project came crashing down on Tuesday night after Chelsea and Manchester City started the exodus, leading the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool into humiliating apologies .

Now, the 14 clubs in the Premier League who would have been badly impacted by the plans are now awaiting footballing bodies to assess the situation and make a call on the steps that should be done next.

For Barber, whose Brighton team earned a valuable point against Chelsea on Tuesday evening at Stamford Bridge, a full review must take place.

The ‘greedy’ foreign billionaires who tried -and failed – to tear apart English football with their new European Super League proposal

STAN KROENKE – ARSENAL

The 73-year-old American billionaire is heavily involved in sport as owner of Kroenke Sports and Entertainment with Premier League side Arsenal among the biggest guns in his portfolio.

His company has been involved with the Gunners since 2007 and he took complete control three years ago.

Kroenke also owns elite-level American teams LA Rams (American Football), the Denver Nuggest (basketball), Colorado Avalanche (ice hockey) and the Colorado Rapids (football).

Kroenke was able to navigate his way around NFL rules preventing ownership of teams in other markets by having the Avalanche and Nuggets in his wife’s name. Ann Walton is the daughter of Walton co-founder James Bud Walton.

He also has the Colorado Mammoth team in the National Lacrosse League and, since 2017 has been involved in epsorts, owning teams in leagues for the video games Overwatch and Call of Duty.

Despite his involvement in sports watched by millions Kroenke prefers to avoid the spotlight and has the nickname ‘Silent Stan.’ He is estimated to be worth around $10billion.

JOHN W HENRY – LIVERPOOL 

John W Henry’s Fenway Sports group have owned Liverpool since 2010.

They also own the Boston Red Sox (baseball), as well as having stakes in Roush Fenway Racing (NASCAR) and Minor League baseball team the Salem Red Sox.

Henry, worth an estimated $3billion who is married to his wife Linda Pizutti (pictured together), made his money from trading company JW Henry and Co before buying the Red Sox with his partner Tom Werner – the Liverpool chairman.

Under their control in 2004 the Red Sox won a first World Series in 86 years.

They also ended Liverpool’s 30-year wait for a championship when they lifted the Premier League last season.

But they will now face serious questions from the Anfield supporters following last night’s news.

ROMAN ABRAMOVICH – CHELSEA

Abramovich and his billions arrived at Chelsea in 2003 and turned them into a Premier League giant.

Since he took ownership of the club and invested heavily in big-name managers and players, they have won 16 major trophies, including five Premier League titles and the Champions League.

Believed to be worth around $15billion, according to Forbes, Abramovich also owns stakes in steel company Evraz and Norilsk Nickel – a Russian mning company.

A political figure in his homeland, he was governor of the Chukotka region and donated more than $2million to build schools, hospitals and infrastructure.

The 53-year-old is known to have close relationships with former Russian leader Boris Yeltsin and current president Vladimir Putin.

JOEL GLAZER – MAN UNITED

Florida-based Glazer is part of the family who have controlled Manchester United since 2005. They also have NFL team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

United have not won the Premier League since 2013 but during Glazer’s tenure have lifted 12 major prizes and, according to Deloitte, in 2021 are the world’s fourth richest club behind Barcelona, Real Madrid and Barcelona with revenue of $580m.

The Galzers’ money comes from their sporting empires and real estate across the US.

They bought the Buccaneers for $192m in 1995 and it is now worth $3.1billion.

Likewise they took charge of United, according to Forbes, for $1.4bn with the club reported to be worth more than $3bn.

JOE LEWIS – SPURS

The 84-year-old Lewis is worth around £4billion, according to last year’s Times Rich List.

Born in London he entered the family catering business at 15 but in the 1980s moved into currency trading.

He is the major investor in Tavistock Group which owns more than 200 companies in 15 countries.

The group formerly owned stakes in Scottish football team Rangers and Slavia Prague in the Czech Republic.

Lewis lives in the Bahamas as a tax exile. He is reported to have an art collection worth an estimated $1billion.

SHEIKH MANSOUR – MANCHESTER CITY

The money arrived at Manchester City in 2008 and with Sheikh Mansour, a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, pulling the purse strings, they never looked back.

Cash was quickly pumped into every area – academy, training ground, playing staff, coaching – and City quickly caught up with, and overtook their neighbours.

They have won four Premier Leagues in that time, look set for a fifth this season and are in the semi-final of the Champions League.

The Abu Dhabi group is the majority owner of the City Football Group which boasts Man City as their flagship team.

They also have stakes in teams in the United States, Australia, India, Japan, Spain, Uruguay, China, Belgium and France.

 

Barber told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: ‘It’s been a very difficult 72 hours and the FA and Premier League now need to review what’s happened, who was responsible, the damage it’s done to the game over the last 72 hours and take the appropriate action.

‘I think there’s real disappointment and many of the people involved, people we count as colleagues, we have worked with for many years.

‘I think this hasn’t just happened over 72 hours, it’s been weeks and months in planning and that feels very disappointing.

‘There’s a lot of bridges that now need to be rebuilt and it needs to be the six clubs back to the 14,’ he added.  

Crystal Palace co-owner Steve Parish said: ‘Make no mistake… this was an attempted coup, an attempt to steal football. The fans fought for the right to lose yesterday. You know, they said they don’t want victory without the jeopardy and the risk of losing, it’s meaningless to them.

‘And they don’t want to be part of a gilded elite with no relegation and no promotion The fans the players, the managers that came out against it all of them must deserve high praise these things were dreamed up by people, not by football clubs’.

Boris Johnson threatened to drop a ‘legislative bomb’ to stop English clubs joining the Super League.

After all six clubs pulled out, Mr Johnson tweeted: ‘I welcome last night’s announcement. This is the right result for football fans, clubs, and communities across the country. We must continue to protect our cherished national game.’

Labour leader Keir Starmer added that this ‘must be a watershed moment, where we change our game to put fans first again’, while Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey tweeted: ‘This must be the start of a fans-led football revolution.’ 

The Prime Minister’s comments follow those behind the League saying they will consider ‘the most appropriate steps to reshape the project’ after the mass withdrawals. 

In an interview with Italian newspaper la Repubblica, Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli said the remaining clubs will ‘press ahead’ and the project still had ‘a 100% chance of being a success’.

But rumours in Italy are Agnelli is set to be axed as the club’s shares plummeted this morning. 

In a statement, the league said: ‘Despite the announced departure of the English clubs, forced to take such decisions due to the pressure put on them, we are convinced our proposal is fully aligned with European law and regulations as was demonstrated today by a court decision to protect the Super League from third party actions.

‘Given the current circumstances, we shall reconsider the most appropriate steps to reshape the project, always having in mind our goals of offering fans the best experience possible while enhancing solidarity payments for the entire football community.’

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the Government has not ruled out the option of appointing an Ofcom-style regulator to oversee football.

Following the collapse of the European Super League, Mr Dowden said it is one of the issues that will be considered by the fan-led review of the game to be chaired by former sports minister Tracey Crouch.

‘The fan-led review will look at this,’ he told LBC Radio.

‘Clearly we have got to get a balance. I want the Government to do as little as it has to do. The game is rightly self-governed, but I do think it is right that we look at governance questions like that, and that will not be off the table.’

Mr Dowden said the review will also consider whether fans should be able to take a stake in their clubs in the way they German fans can.

‘The German clubs didn’t participate in this (Super League) proposal. One of the points that was made to me by fans when the Prime Minister and I met with them yesterday was the fact that there was that financial stake. I think we should look at it,’ he said.

‘International investment in football has been a good thing. It has increased the quality of the game and the players and everything else.

‘I’m not saying we shouldn’t have foreign investment, but I do think it is right that we look at how fans can have a stake in the game.’

In the space of around three hours all six English clubs involved in the European Super League plans dramatically quit the hated competition following a huge backlash from fans

Like dominoes, one-by-one clubs fell back into line with their Premier League rivals, a mere 72 hours after proposing a seismic – and much-maligned – change to the beautiful game. 

In a huge victory for fans, who for days have vented their fury at the proposals, members of the so-called Big Six each released statements – some more grovelling than others – announcing they would be pulling out of the European Super League. 

Already mega-rich Manchester City were first to officially break rank last night by announcing they would turn their back on the £4.6billion proposals. 

Then, in a stunning twist to the saga, Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur suddenly announced they would follow suit.

And Chelsea, who are thought to have been the first to break rank, became the last to formally announce plans to pull out of the proposals. The club released a statement released late last night after their Premier League clash with Brighton.

European clubs such as Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, and Italian sides AC and Inter Milan later followed in the footsteps of English sides by pulling out of the project.

Uefa chiefs welcomed the return of the European Super League sides, and urged a refocus on the organisation’s flagship club tournament, the Champions League – which is due to be expanded to include more teams from across the continent.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson, who had earlier described the project as a ‘cartel’ threatened to show the plans the ‘straight red card’, said the decision to quit the breakaway league was ‘the right one’.

The dramatic collapse, which took place over the course of just four hours, led organisers behind the European Super League to announce a suspension to the project. 

But in warning shot that indicated that the saga might not yet be fully over, organisers behind the breakaway competition released a statement saying that ‘status quo of European football needs to change’.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden today welcomed the collapse of the European Super League following the withdrawal of the ‘big six’ English Premier League clubs.

Mr Dowden told Sky News: ‘It is victory for fans. The country has been united in condemning these proposals. The Government has stood firmly behind the footballing authorities in saying we will do whatever it takes to stop this proposal.

‘We were willing to take very bold measures to stop this proposal going ahead. I am very glad that the fans, with the backing of the Government and others, have had their say.’

His boss Boris Johnson had previously warned he was prepared to legislate to block the new league plans, accusing breakaway football clubs of forming ‘a kind of cartel’.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said measures under consideration included preventing players from the clubs involved getting work visas, and the withdrawal of police funding for match days.

The plans for the breakaway league were also ‘unanimously and vigorously’ rejected by the other 14 members of the English top flight following a meeting on Tuesday.

In a statement issued before most clubs had announced their intention to quit the new league, the Football Association (FA) welcomed the news that some clubs were withdrawing their support, highlighting that ‘the game has been unanimous in its disapproval of a closed league’.

It said the proposals ‘could have divided our game, but, instead, it has unified us all’.

The FA’s statement added: ‘We would like to thank the fans in particular for their influential and unequivocal voice during this time, holding true the guiding principles of football. It is a powerful reminder that the game is, and always will be, for fans.’

Under the plan unveiled at the weekend, the six English clubs would have joined six leading Spanish and Italian clubs to set up an alternative competition to the European Champions League.

The proposal attracted particular anger as there would be no relegation from the Super League, regardless of how well clubs do on the field, although five of the best-performing teams from outside the league would be invited to participate each year.

It led to calls for the clubs involved to be expelled from the Premier League amid suggestions that their players could be barred from representing their countries in the World Cup or the European Championship.

It comes as bosses at the so-called ‘Big Six’ clubs earlier held emergency meetings after realising they were alienating their supporters and infuriating politicians with their cynical move. 

In a bid to appease furious fans, Arsenal issued grovelling apology to its supporters, who yesterday protested outside the club’s ground with fans calling for their owner Stan Kroenke to quit. 

In their statement, the north London club said: ‘As a result of listening to you and the wider football community over recent days we are withdrawing from the proposed Super League.

‘We made a mistake, and we apologise for it.’ 

Meanwhile Liverpool, who today faced a social media revolt from its players, including captain Jordan Henderson, said: ‘Liverpool Football Club can confirm that our involvement in proposed plans to form a European Super League has been discontinued.

‘In recent days, the club has received representations from various key stakeholders, both internally and externally, and we would like to thank them for their valuable contributions.’

Liverpool and Manchester United, both owned by American businessmen, were said to be among the driving forces of the project, along with European giants Real Madrid and AC Milan.

Last night United, whose executive vice chairman Ed Woodward announced he would step down amid the row, said the club would not be participating in the league.

However the club said it remained ‘committed’ to coming-up with ‘sustainable solutions to the long-term challenges facing the game’.

The club’s statement read: ‘Manchester United will not be participating in the European Super League.

‘We have listened carefully to the reaction from our fans, the UK government and other key stakeholders.

‘We remain committed to working with others across the football community to come up with sustainable solutions to the long-term challenges facing the game.’

Meanwhile, Tottenham took to Twitter to announce the club would no longer be a part of the Super League proposals.

In a statement, the club said: ‘We can confirm that we have formally commenced procedures to withdraw from the group developing proposals for a European Super League (ESL).’ 

Chelsea, who played Brighton last night in the Premier League, were the last to release a statement.  

‘As reported earlier this evening, Chelsea Football Club can confirm that it has begun the formal procedures for withdrawal from the group developing plans for a European Super League.

‘Having joined the group late last week, we have now had time to consider the matter fully and have decided that our continued participation in these plans would not be in the best interests of the Club, our supporters or the wider football community.’  

The European Super League last night responded by suspending the project.

But it hinted that the row over the future of European football could still rage on in a statement released to the media.

The statement read: ‘The European Super League is convinced that the current status quo of European football needs to change.

‘We are proposing a new European competition because the existing system does not work.

‘We are proposing a new European competition because the existing system does not work. 

‘Our proposal is aimed at allowing the sport to evolve while generating resources and stability for the full football pyramid, including helping to overcome the financial difficulties experienced by the entire football community as a result of the pandemic.

‘It would also provide materially enhanced solidarity payments to all football stakeholders.’

England’s Big Six of City, Chelsea, United, Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool had earlier sparked outrage among much of the footballing world by announcing plans to team up with Spanish giants Atletico, Barcelona, and Real Madrid, and top Italian sides AC and Inter Milan for the new European Super League.

The £4.6billion proposals were first reported on Sunday night, followed by an official joint statement from all 12 clubs.

But, less than 72 hours after the announcement was made, the plans crumbled.

In its statement, Manchester City’s said: ‘Manchester City Football Club can confirm that it has formally enacted the procedures to withdraw from the group developing plans for a European Super League.’ 

Chelsea, who were playing Brighton tonight in the Premier League, have not yet released a formal statement. Pictured: Fans protested outside Stamford Bridge tonight

Chelsea, who were playing Brighton tonight in the Premier League, have not yet released a formal statement. Pictured: Fans protested outside Stamford Bridge tonight

The news came as hundreds of Chelsea fans tonight protested against the club's involvement in the £4.3billion breakaway plans, by chanting and holding banners outside Stamford Bridge

The news came as hundreds of Chelsea fans tonight protested against the club’s involvement in the £4.3billion breakaway plans, by chanting and holding banners outside Stamford Bridge

Fans blocked the Chelsea team coach's entry to the stadium, ahead of their Premier League clash against Brighton, sparking legend and current technical director Petr Cech (pictured) to get amongst the fans in a bid to appease them

Fans blocked the Chelsea team coach’s entry to the stadium, ahead of their Premier League clash against Brighton, sparking legend and current technical director Petr Cech (pictured) to get amongst the fans in a bid to appease them

News of the sudden change-of-heart came as hundreds of Chelsea fans last night rallied against the club’s involvement in the breakaway plans in a rowdy protest outside Stamford Bridge.

Some held up placards and flares, while others threw bottles as they chanted: ‘We want our Chelsea back.’ 

Another banner demanded that club owner Roman Abramovich ‘do the right thing’. 

Fans blocked the Chelsea team coach’s entry to the stadium, ahead of their Premier League clash against Brighton.

Manchester United’s share price takes a six per cent dive as plans for a new European Super League crumble 

Manchester United’s stock market value plunged by around £150million as plans for a European Super League crumbled.

The Premier League side had seen the price of its shares sky-rocket by around the same value after the announcement of the new breakaway league.

But as rumours swirled about club bosses getting cold feet over the big money plans, United’s share prices took a plunge.

Manchester City later became the first club to formally announce its intentions to withdraw, followed by United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham.

Chelsea, who played Brighton in the Premier League last night, were the last club to officially announce they would not be involved in the European Super League.

It came as long-term United chief Ed Woodward announced he would be stepping down from his role as executive vice-chairman. 

Both announcements took place after the close of the New York Stock Exchange, on which United are listed. 

However, ahead of the announcements, the club saw six per cent wiped off its share value yesterday.

Shares in United were worth around £11.60 ($16.17) on Friday, before the announcement of the £4.6billion plans for the breakaway league on Sunday.

The Premier League side had seen the price of its share price sky-rocket by around the same value after the announcement of the new breakaway league. But shares returned to last week's levels today

The Premier League side had seen the price of its share price sky-rocket by around the same value after the announcement of the new breakaway league. But shares returned to last week’s levels today

The plans sparked a share price hike to £12.63 ($17.60) on Monday morning, with investors keen on a potential increase in revenue and a £250million welcome bonus for founding clubs such as United.

However share prices returned to £11.64 ($16.22) as of last night, as talk swirled about clubs potentially quitting the Super League less than 72 hours after it was announced.

Juventus – another founding member – saw their stock price rise by almost 19 per cent on the Milan stock exchange following Sunday’s announcement. 

But their share price also took a dive last night dropping four per cent amid the confusion.

 

It sparked club legend and current technical director Petr Cech to get out of the coach and speak to supporters in a bid to appease them.

But it was only once news broke that the club could now withdraw from the tournament did fans relent – loudly cheering the decision and the club’s name. 

Other protests had place taken outside Liverpool’s Anfield ground, as well as Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, while Leeds fans were seen burning a Liverpool shirt outside Elland Road ahead of their team’s clash with the Merseyside club. 

Yesterday, in a sign of uncertainty from within the City camp, and foreshadowing the events that would later take place, boss Pep Guardiola laid into the plans.

United striker Marcus Rashford also took aim at the proposals, sharing the quote ‘football is nothing without fans’.

The clubs had hoped to share out a mutlibillion-pound bonanza through a ‘welcome bonus’ of up to £250million per club from the US investment banking giant JP Morgan Chase.

Dubbed the ‘Dirty Dozen’, the rebel clubs would have cashed in indefinitely because the ESL had no relegation. It would have undermined the Champions League and the Premier League, also denying money to lower-ranked clubs and grassroots teams.

Boris Johnson had indicated the Government would try to scupper the competition and described it last night as a ‘cartel’.

The breakaway was launched when the 12 members of the ESL released an explosive statement on Sunday night confirming the creation of ‘a format for top clubs and players to compete on a regular basis’.

The other ‘founding clubs’ which signed up were Italy’s AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus, and Spain’s Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid.

The clubs had hoped to launch the midweek tournament in August. There would have been a mechanism for a further five teams to qualify annually based on achievements in the prior season, making a total of 20.

The plans immediately sparked uproar from supporters, players, politicians and sporting bodies.

Prince William warned of the damage it could do to ‘the game we love’ and insisted the ‘values of competition and fairness’ in sport must be protected.

Comedian and presenter James Corden launched into a six-minute rant about the evils of the ESL on his Late Late Show in America.

The West Ham fan said: ‘I’m heartbroken by it, genuinely heartbroken by it. I’m heartbroken because the owners of these teams have displayed the worst kind of greed I’ve ever seen in sport.’

Former England captain David Beckham wrote on Instagram: ‘We need football to be for everyone. We need football to be fair and we need competitions based on merit. Unless we protect these values the game we love is in danger.’

Hours before last night’s announcements, Beckham’s former England teammate Alan Shearer predicted that some of the clubs involved would be considering their positions as a result of the condemnation.

The striker-turned-pundit said: ‘They have thrown a hand grenade, let’s throw one back and ban them. 

‘When you look at the reaction over the last 36 hours, common sense would tell you that these clubs will have to go away and think ‘Have we really done the right thing here?’.

‘Where are these owners? Why don’t they come out and face the media and tell us why they’ve done it, why they want a closed shop that no one else can get into?’

 

Fans burnt a Liverpool shirt using outside Elland Road – where Liverpool drew 1-1 with Leeds last night – as outrage grows over plans for a European Super League

Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have both spoken out against the European Super League despite the billionaire owners of their clubs signing up for the next 23 years

Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have both spoken out against the European Super League despite the billionaire owners of their clubs signing up for the next 23 years

Pep Guardiola (left) and Jurgen Klopp (right last) have both spoken out against the European Super League despite the billionaire owners of their clubs signing up for the next 23 years

Liverpool players meanwhile revolted in a joint social media campaign condemning the proposals

Players including captain Jordan Henderson and James Milner tonight shared an identical post

Liverpool players meanwhile revolted in a joint social media campaign condemning the proposals. Players including captain Jordan Henderson and James Milner tonight shared an identical post with the words: ‘We don’t like it and we don’t want it to happen.’

Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham are the six English clubs who have signed up to the deeply unpopular European Super League

Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham are the six English clubs who have signed up to the deeply unpopular European Super League

Quotes from Oscar Wilde, then came the fireworks, outrage and threats: Inside the explosive meeting of the Premier League’s 14 ‘other’ clubs as they help to stop Super League plans

The 14 spurned Premier League clubs met for the first time yesterday since the breakaway Super League bomb exploded. 

Sportsmail’s Mike Keegan gives the inside story of an extraordinary two-and-a-half hours which featured quotes from Boris Johnson and Oscar Wilde and a reference to The Twilight Zone.

From the kick-off, it was clear this was to be a Premier League summit with a difference. Gary Hoffman, investment banker turned top-flight chair, made the introductions and vowed that no minutes would be taken. This was not a normal shareholders meeting, he told the call. The subtext was clear – we were very much in off-the-record territory.

Hoffman turned it over to chief executive Richard Masters, who had also come ready for the fight. He was armed with explosive quotes from none other than Boris Johnson, with whom he had spoken in the morning. The Prime Minister, while a staunch free marketeer, had blasted the breakaway European Super League as ‘anti-competitive’ and had declared that a ‘legislative bomb’ should be dropped to stop it – and that ‘it should be done now’.

The online gathering was also shown a slide which revealed the extent of government support. Downing Street would do ‘whatever it takes’, including potential ‘competition law intervention’ and the introduction of ‘sports-specific legislation’, although it was pointed out that Johnson would prefer the top flight to try and use its own regulations first.

14 'other' Premier League clubs met on Tuesday to discuss the European Super League plot

14 ‘other’ Premier League clubs met on Tuesday to discuss the European Super League plot

The clubs took took solace from the strong support given by Prime Minister Boris Johnson

The clubs took took solace from the strong support given by Prime Minister Boris Johnson

FA CEO Mark Bullingham was next up, stating that the idea should be ‘killed as soon as possible’. The FA man pointed out their permission was needed whenever an English club played a club from another nation and pointed out that it would not be forthcoming.

Attention then switched to the logistics. Saudi Arabia was mentioned as a potential venue for matches. 2022-23 was the more realistic start date although there was a desire, it was understood, to start the ESL in August this year. A court filing in New York by the ESL, in an attempt to get around Court of Arbitration for Sport jurisdiction, was also mentioned.

Defences were explored. The Premier League said permission for its clubs to play in a new competition would not be provided, while more information from the government disclosed that work permits would not be forthcoming for new signings for those from overseas to play in any ESL.

No decisions on action were made but the need for a swift response was agreed upon. The Premier League ended their section by stating that they were meeting UEFA for talks on Wednesday.

Then came the fireworks.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters led the meeting among the 14 other clubs

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters led the meeting among the 14 other clubs

There was a firm belief that Big Six officials had acted like 'spies' over broadcast rights deals

There was a firm belief that Big Six officials had acted like ‘spies’ over broadcast rights deals

It was claimed that information regarding the deals had been used as part of breakaway plans

It was claimed that information regarding the deals had been used as part of breakaway plans

Clubs were asked for their feedback and the allegations started flying. There was outrage and a firm belief that officials from big six clubs on Premier League broadcast and commercial working groups had been acting like spies, gleaning information and then taking it back to be used as part of their breakaway plans. There were even claims that big six officials had tried to persuade the Premier League to hold off negotiating a new broadcast rights deal because they secretly wanted to announce their own new league first.

Calls for those suspected of behaving in such a manner to be immediately thrown off working groups were made by a number of incandescent representatives.

On the subject of broadcast deals, the Premier League chimed in with news that it was already coming under pressure from overseas broadcasters for updates given they had recently pledged £2bn to the cause. Details of a phone call that morning between Paul Barber and Tottenham’s Daniel Levy were then relayed by the Brighton chief. 

Levy was said to be ‘quite shaken up’ and had acknowledged that the project was a PR disaster for those involved. However, Levy said the big six felt nobody at either the Premier League or UEFA had listened to them and they felt they had been put into a corner. The Spurs supremo was reported to have said it was only right that the biggest brands should have a bigger share of the monies and pointed out that his club had a large debt to service thanks to their new stadium.

Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish likened the plot to an episode of The Twilight Zone

Brighton chief Paul Barber explained that he spoke with Levy on the phone on Tuesday morning

Brighton chief Paul Barber (R) reportedly spoke with Spurs chief Daniel Levy while Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish (L)  likened the saga to an episode of The Twilight Zone

Everton chairman Bill Kenwright (L) quotes Oscar Wilde as the meeting came to a close

Everton chairman Bill Kenwright (L) quotes Oscar Wilde as the meeting came to a close

Kenwright, a film and theatre producer said: ‘One should always play fairly when one has the winning cards,’ in reference to the current plans that have rocked football

Kenwright, a film and theatre producer said: ‘One should always play fairly when one has the winning cards,’ in reference to the current plans that have rocked football

Bill Kenwright, Everton chairman and film and theatre producer, then injected some much-needed light relief, courtesy of Oscar Wilde. ‘One should always play fairly when one has the winning cards,’ he said.

When asked what the Premier League should do, the desire was for ‘a swift counter attack’. However, there was the firm belief that this was not the fault of the clubs, rather their owners. ‘We can’t lose them, this is not their fault,’ one representative said.

Towards the conclusion, Crystal Palace’s Steve Parish, who had claimed the 14 had been ‘treated like toilet roll’ likened the saga to an episode of The Twilight Zone in which ‘we know something is happening but we don’t know what it is’. The next few episodes should be worth watching.

 

MARTIN SAMUEL: You won. We won… yet the struggle does not end here. Legislation MUST be passed so that English football can never be held to ransom again

Roman Abramovich was always different. And that made Chelsea different, too. He was in it for something more than money. He was in it for the glory, and the status.

And for soft political power and influence, obviously. We’re not fools. But nobody burns through that many managers and regimes and strategies and players without actually revelling in that moment when a trophy is lifted into the air and the cannons of glittering confetti pop. So, by Tuesday, he knew he had made a mistake. A big, expensive mistake.

The same with Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City. Do you think he needs to maximise revenues at the expense of reputation? Do you think that was why he bought a football club? The business opportunity?

Roman Abramovich never intended to make money from football when he bought Chelsea

Roman Abramovich never intended to make money from football when he bought Chelsea

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority has assets in the region of £594billion. Do you think Khaldoon al-Mubarak, Manchester City’s chairman, runs a club with the same guiding principles as the now departed chief executive officer at Manchester United?

There is an old joke about how to make a small fortune out of football. You start with a big fortune. Except Abramovich and His Royal Highness have fortunes so great, football doesn’t make a dent. As their name suggests, the Fenway Sports Group make money from sport; Manchester City and Chelsea’s owner put money in.

So here’s another joke. It’s a Two Ronnies sketch. There are two tramps resting by the side of the road. ‘If I had as much money as Rockefeller,’ said one, ‘I’d have more money than Rockefeller.’ The other tramp thought about this for a while. ‘How’s that, then?’ he asked. ‘I’d do a bit of window cleaning on the side.’

And that’s what Chelsea and Manchester City are to Abramovich and Mansour. They are the window cleaning on the side. Sports washing, soft power, ego, place whatever motivations you will on the owners of these clubs, but they are not involved in English football for the same reasons as the venture capitalists across the Atlantic. This was always the end game for Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United: the red clubs.

Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan is similar, and not in it to generate income

Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan is similar, and not in it to generate income

Left to their own devices, the blue corner would never have come up with an idea as crass as The Super League. They didn’t need it. All The Super League delivers is revenue, and they’ve got that.

Once the public reaction in this country stripped the competition of all its prestige and glory, once it devalued the brand, made pariahs of the owners, tainted all commercial partners, alienated the supporters, it became worthless to them, actively harmful in many ways.

Manchester City want to be loved. Seriously, they do. They were forced to choose between UEFA and Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain on one side and the elites of England, Spain and Italy on the other. Convinced that all parties hated them and fearful of being left behind again, they went with the promise of more money. It was a mistake.

They know that now, because it did not take into account the one group of people who did not hate them. Their fans. And having angered their only friends on earth, City knew this was a giant misstep.

Chelsea, too. This wasn’t a decision sparked by a protest that began outside Stamford Bridge late yesterday afternoon. Reneging on this contract will cost millions. It is not the type of call that is taken by a club executive peering nervously out of a window and wondering how he’ll get his Mercedes out of the car park.

The decision was made, by Abramovich, before the demonstration began. But the voice of the fans mattered. The roar that has been heard since Sunday when the news of The Super League first leaked out was a vital factor.

Tuesday was match day, and all week Chelsea have been building up to the fixture with Brighton on their social media sites. The posts beneath these harmless entries have told a tale of extreme vilification. Nobody at Chelsea could be in any doubt that this association with a move synonymous with sheer ingordigiousness — ‘extreme greed, an insatiable desire for wealth at any cost’ — has created a wholly toxic environment.

The club even feared that its work in the vanguard of the fight against anti-Semitism would be harmed. No doubt City believed the same of the good deeds the club have done regenerating areas of east Manchester.

The boycotts worked up there. Memberships were returned and even the tiny allocation for Sunday’s Carabao Cup final went largely unsold. City have not got the same global fanbase as their fellow travellers. They need the home support, they need a good reputation on which to build. Glocalisation, it is called. Going global, while staying local. For all the ambitions and vision of the City Football Group — now being widely mimicked by rivals — City are not set up to live off subscriptions across continents.

They need that homely image, they need to be the alternate to Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal. Everything was wrong about this breakaway for them. Belatedly, City acknowledged it. They were the first to notify their erstwhile allies of their change of heart, formally.

Ed Woodward’s resignation, then, came as a shock. He is the first senior figure at any of the clubs to step away apparently on principle. Managers such as Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have spoken well in opposition. Some players such as Jordan Henderson and Bruno Fernandes have, too.

Chelsea supporters protested on Tuesday night before news of the club's withdrawal emerged

Chelsea supporters protested on Tuesday night before news of the club’s withdrawal emerged

Yet Woodward was considered to have bought into the Glazer family drive to Americanise the English game. His belated change of heart reveals either a man in turmoil or a general who, the coup having failed, fell on his sword. It is easier for the Glazers to remain distant from the fury on their Tampa estate. Woodward lives here. He has had intimidating visitors to his home. Perhaps he finally decided it wasn’t worth the aggravation. Not for a vision that wasn’t even his.

Fortunately, this resistance wasn’t built on dark threats to a family home. This was fan protest, at its purest. So well done you, too. The news that Daniel Levy, chairman of Tottenham, had been complaining that the last 48 hours have been ‘a PR disaster’ was the first sign that all was not well in the houses of pure avarice.

The party line was of club owners prepared to ride out the storm, expecting it, almost shrugging it off. That wasn’t true. At least three of the Premier League’s breakaway six were rattled. Could the Chelsea Pitch Owners actually ban them from playing at their own stadium, on their own pitch, indeed using their own name?

We may never find out — but it was on the agenda at a CPO meeting scheduled for Thursday. And all achieved by fans. Hitting the airwaves, social media forums, calling, demonstrating, taking direct action. A groundswell of opinion that couldn’t be ignored, even in Abu Dhabi.

Now we wait for Tottenham, and the red clubs, to move. They are isolated, stranded. There could be a move to charge them with bad faith, maybe even exclude them from domestic competitions.

Ed Woodward's resignation as Manchester United chief executive came as a shock

Ed Woodward’s resignation as Manchester United chief executive came as a shock

Could Tottenham even afford the punitive financial penalties of pulling out? Either way, it is a hard sell now. A 10-team Super League and dwindling — Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are nearing the exit door, too — without three of four Champions League semi-finalists, and many of the most storied teams in Europe.

Who buys that? Where’s the money to be mined from a scheme so poisonous, so wholly rejected?

Only the desperate remain, clubs whose owners have made it clear that they are not motivated by glory, but by mammon; who do not care a damn for competition or fair play. Discredited clubs, who have alienated the fans they must surely go crawling back to one day, knowing they have been left to twist in the wind by this desertion.

They signed contracts for 23 years; the ordinary supporters have shaken the edifice to its core in two days. The battle is not won yet. But it is surely the end of a very sordid beginning.

DAVID JONES: Yes, it’s all over for the Super League, but with its grotesque fixation with money, football sold its soul years ago

Back in 2003, after two Leeds United players were arrested following a fracas outside a nightclub, I interviewed manager David O’Leary.

I well recall the despairing look as he gazed from his office window to see a teenage player zoom into the car park in a gleaming new sports car.

‘That young lad will probably never make it into the first team but he’s already earning thousands a week and he has an agent who takes care of everything for him, including his laundry. This is what we’re up against,’ the ex-Arsenal and Ireland defender told me, shaking his head.

‘When I started out, we had to clean the first-teamers’ boots, and we were on a few quid a week. How are they ever supposed to learn about real life?’ It was a refrain from the heart, repeated by many other retired players who’d begun as lowly apprentices and worked their way up.

And I was reminded of it after this week’s bombshell revelation that six, mega-rich English clubs planned to join a breakaway, £3 billion-funded European Super League — an alliance that last night was disintegrating fast. It is, however, the latest and perhaps most shocking reminder that the game, at its upper reaches, has lost all touch with reality.

Top officials of Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool having dinner together in Italianrestaurant Locanda Verde in New York in October 2017. Pictured left to right: Ed Woodward, Ivan Gazidis, Avi Glazer, Joel Glazer and John W Henry

Top officials of Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool having dinner together in Italianrestaurant Locanda Verde in New York in October 2017. Pictured left to right: Ed Woodward, Ivan Gazidis, Avi Glazer, Joel Glazer and John W Henry

A photograph of top officials from three of the the founder member teams — Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United — dining together at a New York restaurant in October 2017 suggests that plans for this money-spinning new competition were afoot even then.

However, we grass-roots supporters (or ‘legacy fans’, to use the condescending new terminology) have seen this disastrous scenario slowly unfolding for years.

Even 20 years ago, the moneymen and chancers had embedded their grubby fingers into the game, milking it at every opportunity, and the rot was impossible to stop.

Awash with the profits from global TV royalties, endorsements, and the sale of horribly over-priced club merchandise and match tickets — not to mention the munificence of overseas tycoons who acquired our top clubs as status symbols — top-end football already seemed to have a currency all of its own.

Average players who might once be valued at a few hundred thousand were sold for tens of millions, with a hefty back-hander for their agents.

Salaries were ludicrously inflated; impersonal, out-of-town ‘soccer complexes’ replaced the characterful stadiums that once towered over gridiron streets.

Jose Mourinho (pictured with wife Tami) has just been sacked as the manager of Tottenham Hotspur. The self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ was hired by Spurs with the expectation that he’d bring them football’s glittering prizes

Jose Mourinho (pictured with wife Tami) has just been sacked as the manager of Tottenham Hotspur. The self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ was hired by Spurs with the expectation that he’d bring them football’s glittering prizes

All this served to remove ‘the people’s game’ from the people themselves.

Where once at least some of the players had local roots, now they earned Monopoly money and lived in remote gated mansions.

And yet, such was the allure of football, such was the brilliance and athleticism of the new breed of player — and such was our tribal loyalty — that we swallowed our disgust and bought into it.

We did so even when we read jaw-dropping stories such as that of Winston Bogarde. In 2000, this hulking Dutch defender transferred from Barcelona to Chelsea.

It quickly became evident that he had been risibly over-rated —indeed, in an extraordinary interview he admitted as much. ‘I may be one of the worst buys in Premier League history, but I don’t care,’ declared Bogarde. ‘This world is about money, so when you are offered millions you take them. Few people will ever earn so much….’

Brazenly, he resisted Chelsea’s repeated efforts to re-sell him, opting to sit-out his four year, £40,000-a-week contract.

In all he played for the club just a dozen times. Weighed against his wages and transfer fee, he ‘earned’ approximately £700,000 per game. Fast-forward 15 years and grossly expensive misjudgements such as this were still happening.

Take Alexis Sanchez, a Chilean striker transferred from Arsenal to Manchester United, in January, 2018. Even by Premier League standards his demands were outlandish. A basic weekly salary of £350,000 was not sufficient. He insisted on £100,000 a week for image rights, plus whopping performance-related bonuses. Oh yes, and the club had to pay National Insurance contributions for himself and his entourage.

Since Sanchez had excelled for Arsenal, United envisaged he’d be their next superstar, following the likes of Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Wayne Rooney. But what happened next is still a mystery. Perhaps he suffered stage-fright at the thought of filling such famous boots. Maybe he couldn’t acclimatise to the soggy Manchester weather.

Whatever the truth, he spectacularly flopped — so badly that, very soon, he became almost unselectable. Yet he didn’t seem overly concerned by his alarming loss of form. By the time United offloaded him to Inter Milan — first on loan, and later permanently — he’d scored just five goals, each of which cost the club £13.2 million.

By my reckoning he had been on the pitch for a total of 46 hours, at £14,383 per minute!

In any other industry, boardroom heads would have rolled. In the fantasy land of Premier League Football shoulders are shrugged.

And yet there’s more. Arsenal have had no cause to gloat over the Sanchez deal; for their 2013 £42.5 million signing of midfielder Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid was equally misguided.

During his seven-and-a-half years at the club, the Gunners paid him a staggering £90 million in wages, at £350,000 a week. Accused by supporters of laziness and lack of commitment, however, his appearances became increasingly rare.

Caught speeding at 97mph in his £143,000 Mercedes G-Class last year, he further angered fans by refusing to join fellow squad members in accepting a 12.5 per cent pay-cut during the pandemic shut-down.

In the ten months before January this year, when he was finally dispatched to Turkey on a free transfer, he’d not played a single match.

And that’s just the players. The managers are also fabulously rewarded. Even for failure.

Jose Mourinho has just been sacked as the manager of Tottenham Hotspur. The self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ was hired by Spurs with the expectation that he’d bring them football’s glittering prizes, but left the team languishing in seventh place in the Premier League, and reportedly banked £16 million — a pay-off for the two years he had left on his contract.

No wonder he was pictured smiling for all his considerable worth within hours of the news breaking. It wasn’t the first time the 58-year-old Portuguese coach has been handsomely rewarded for less than stellar results.

Arsenal have had no cause to gloat over the Sanchez deal; for their 2013 £42.5 million signing of midfielder Mesut Ozil (pictured) from Real Madrid was equally misguided

Arsenal have had no cause to gloat over the Sanchez deal; for their 2013 £42.5 million signing of midfielder Mesut Ozil (pictured) from Real Madrid was equally misguided

Yes, he’s won 25 major trophies, but his aloofness and imperiousness often sat uneasily with the cossetted superstars under his control and wealthy club owners. Four of his contracts with English clubs have been terminated prematurely.

This has proved particularly expensive for Chelsea. In 2007, after he crossed swords once too often with billionaire proprietor Roman Abramovich, they handed him a severance cheque for £23.07 million.

Then in 2015, having been brave — or foolish enough — to re-hire him, they paid him off again. This time the damage was ‘only’ £8.3 million; small change, perhaps, for a Russian oligarch. On neither occasion was he said to have been fired. In euphemistic football parlance, the official statement claimed his employment had been ‘terminated by mutual consent’.

There was no mealy-mouthed jargon from Manchester United when, three years later, he was shown the door at Old Trafford, having won just seven of the season’s first 17 games.

His golden handshake this time? Ker-ching! Another £19.6 million. To save you reaching for the calculator, all that adds up to £66.97 million.

Yes, you read that correctly: Mourinho has waltzed off with almost £67 million from English clubs in the past 14 years.

And that isn’t counting the exorbitant salary he received, nor the undisclosed endorsement deals he’s cut with companies such as Paddy Power.

It is not entirely fair to compare the players outlined above too closely with Mourinho, who could never be accused of giving less than 100 per cent to his job, and who for many years enjoyed enormous success.

But pitted against younger, and perhaps more adventurous and inventive managers, his once-formidable aura seems to have deserted him.

Though he won two trophies at United, observers trace the start of his decline to Manchester, where he never settled, living in a penthouse at the five-star Lowry Hotel and dining on takeaways.

This remoteness didn’t go down well with Mancunians, who recalled how great predecessors had mingled freely with them. Sir Alex Ferguson played in his local pub quiz team.

Since his wife, Matilde, preferred to stay at their home in London’s Belgravia with their two grown-up children, there were also rumours that living in the North-West was damaging his marriage.

A nadir was reached when a tabloid claimed he had formed a ‘close friendship’ with a woman police officer, 20 years his junior, but she dismissed the story as a ‘smear’.

At all events, the stylish manager — once voted Man of the Year by GQ magazine — has always insisted that he is a devoted family man whose idea of a perfect night is a cosy dinner with Matilde.

He claims to enjoy shopping trips with her, too. Otherwise he is a fine-wine buff, and spends his leisure time watching movies and listening to favourite artists including Bruce Springsteen and Phil Collins.

For the moment he has plenty of time for those hobbies. But only until another club, with more money than sense, tempts him with a recklessly long contract, as surely they will.

In a rare interview, Mourinho recently revealed one of his maxims — that you learn more from defeat than from victory. Maybe so, and — as the smirking Special One might reflect while banking that £16 million — you certainly earn more. 



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