It seems Arsenal have found an ally in their assessment that joining the European Super League was an opportunity they simply could not afford to miss out on.
The Gunners’ owner Josh Kroenke and chief executive Vinai Venkatesham held a fans’ forum on Thursday to explain their decision to agree to the breakaway league.
During the heated meeting the pair insisted Arsenal were not one of the original founders behind the proposal, but rather felt compelled to follow the big boys for fear of missing out.
In a frankly weak admission, Venkatesham said: “On this project, the train was leaving the station and we made the decision to join”, while Kroenke added: “We asked ourselves, what is worse: European Super League, or European Super League without Arsenal?”
Kroenke then gave a nod to the ESL’s aims of attracting and retaining a newer and wider audience, admitting: “We also asked ourselves what do the fans want? The global fan wants Arsenal vs Barcelona as often as possible. English fans want to see more big matches, but you still want your cold nights in Stoke.”
As things panned out, Arsenal – along with the five other Premier League clubs – quickly withdrew from the competition, with both execs painfully conceding amid a grovelling apology that they had got this one “wrong” by making a “terrible decision”.
However, over at the Nou Camp, Barcelona president Joan Laporta was not quite so remorseful, instead backing up the claims of Arsenal’s chiefs that the Super League really wasn’t an offer to be sniffed at.
Barca remain one of just four clubs still effectively ‘in’ the Super League group, even though the competition will not be going ahead as planned.
And Laporta seems keen on reviving the proposals in the future, adamant that its inauguration would only have been of benefit to the game.
In an official statement on the Barcelona website, Laporta stressed Barcelona accepted their invitation as “a matter of urgency” to join “a competition designed to improve the quality and attractiveness of the product offered to the football fans”.
In addition, he wrote: “The decision was made in the conviction that it would have been a historical error to turn down the opportunity to be part of this project as one of its founding members.”
While few would argue with Barcelona’s standing as one of the game’s biggest clubs, Arsenal were practically mocked over their inclusion, given their lowly domestic position and failure to qualify for the Champions League since 2017.
It’s perhaps more understandable that a club like Arsenal felt under pressure to follow suit, while Barcelona would have been in a strong position to oppose such plans, though Laporta insists the formation of a Super League is “a necessity”.
And the comments of Real Madrid president Florentino Perez suggests this is not a scheme which will be quietly filed away never to rear its ugly head again.
“If anyone thinks the Super League is dead, are they wrong? Absolutely,” Perez told Spanish radio show El Larguero. “ We’re going to keep working and what everyone thinks is for the best will emerge.
“The project is on standby. The Super League still exists.”