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European Super League: All six Premier League teams withdraw from competition


Chelsea fans protest against the European Super League
Chelsea’s intentions to leave the European Super League game as fans protested their involvement outside the Stamford Bridge

Manchester City have withdrawn from the European Super League (ESL) and Chelsea are also preparing to do so.

Efforts to leave come just two days after both were announced as two of six English clubs to sign up to the controversial new competition.

The ESL has been widely criticised since being announced on Sunday.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson said on social mediaexternal-link his side’s “collective position” is they do not want the Super League to take place.

“We don’t like it and we don’t want it to happen,” read a message that was also posted by many fellow Liverpool players.

“Our commitment to this football club and its supporters is absolute and unconditional.”

Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who was involved in the Super League discussions, has announced he will step down from his role at the end of 2021.

Manchester City confirmed they have “formally enacted the procedures to withdraw” from the ESL later on Tuesday.

City and England winger Raheem Sterling subsequently posted: “Ok bye.”

Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin said he was “delighted” by City’s decision and welcomed them “back to the European football family”.

“They have shown great intelligence in listening to the many voices – most notably their fans – that have spelled out the vital benefits that the current system has for the whole of European football,” he added.”City are a real asset for the game and I am delighted to be working with them for a better future for the European game.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Manchester City and Chelsea have made “absolutely the right” decision and he hopes others “will follow their lead”.

Johnson’s stance against the ESL has been supported by Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Around 1,000 fans gathered outside Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge ground before their game against Brighton on Tuesday to protest at their club’s involvement.

Chelsea and City were part of English football’s ‘big six’ clubs – alongside Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham – to have agreed to join the new league.

In total, 12 European clubs announced their intentions to form the breakaway league, which they hoped to establish as a new midweek competition.

It was condemned by football authorities and government ministers in the UK and across Europe by Uefa and leagues associations.

Chelsea were the first club to indicate they will not press ahead by preparing documentation to withdraw. City withdrew soon after.

Chelsea and City were not drivers of this plan, they were the last to sign and feared being left behind.

It is not clear how easy it is or how binding the contracts are.

The decision to try and have Chelsea leave was taken by owner Roman Abramovich and the club’s board after witnessing negative global reaction to the Super League.

There was a fear that it could do reputational damage to the club and undermine some of its campaigning and community work.

Questions were raised internally as to whether fans would respond to the club if it continued with a proposal which has gone down so badly.

The decision was made earlier on Tuesday before protests started outside Stamford Bridge.

Petr Cech
Former Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech, who is now the club’s technical director, called for calm from fans during protests at Stamford Bridge

Earlier in the day, Johnson met with the Football Association, Premier League officials and fans’ representatives after which the government said it will take “whatever action necessary”, including legislative options, to ensure the proposals were stopped.

A statement released after a meeting between the Premier League and the 14 clubs not involved said they “unanimously and vigorously” rejected plans for the competition.

It added that it is considering “all actions available” to stop the competition and asked the six teams to end their involvement immediately.

While English involvement has quickly been reconsidered, there has been no indication from the other six clubs from Spain and Italy – which includes Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan, Juventus and AC Milan – that they are considering doing the same.

Real president Florentino Perez, who was named as the ESL’s chairman, said the competition was set up “to save football” because young people are “no longer interested” in the game because of “a lot of poor quality games”.

AC Milan chief executive Ivan Gazidis said the ESL would be “a new, exciting chapter for the game” and that it will “provide value and support” across European football.

Meanwhile, Juventus manager Andrea Pirlo came out in support of the ESL and the club’s owner Andrea Agnelli, who quit as European Club Association (ECA) chairman after signing the Turin club up to the new competition.

“He explained this project to us, he gave us great confidence, but the most important thing he told us is that we have to continue with our work,” Pirlo said.

Analysis

Former Chelsea winger Pat Nevin on BBC Radio 5 Live

I’m not even mildly surprised – it didn’t look like Chelsea wanted to get on that train but they didn’t want to be left at the station.

I don’t think these clubs were prepared for anything. This seems like utter panic from a set of clubs. I think this is the first break that falls and then we are back into something like normality.

Chelsea wanted to move stadium a few years ago, fans weren’t having it. The club, instead of pushing it through, said “we were wrong”. They can change, they can adapt.

It’s gone now, dead in the water. It is that big because the other clubs would look a bit silly without them now.

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