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Discussion in 'Southampton' started by Archers Road, Apr 19, 2021.
A ban from this season’s CL and Europa for those still involved?
I bet they won’t get punished.
They’re already trotting out the “don’t punish the clubs, it was the owners line”
Well, it wasn’t the fans that put Saints into administration, yet we were punished.
I see spurs were one of the last remaining English clubs to pull out of the ESL after realising that If they were the only club left in it, they still wouldn't win the thing.
Well that all lasted just 2 days. How ****ing embarrassing.
I would take us getting beaten 9-0 every season not being as embarrassing as the shame on the greedy six.
Reading that that the Italians are out as well... May be the Spanish 3 could have their own super league.. Let Catalonia have independance, invite Gibraltar to make it truly international..
Yet more evidence that the world - almost certainly not just the world of football - is run by incompetent clueless fools who are utterly blinded by greed. Who knew?
If also shows that the only power they have to decide anything, is the power the masses consent to give them. Withdraw the consent, and their cosy cabal collapses. Quite heartening actually.
Good to see fans all pull together to stop this. VAR next please
Joking apart, I can see this as the start of ‘fan power’
All very well to celebrate, but there’s an issue here ...
Spanish football journalist Guillem Balague told BBC Radio 5 Live
"I do think the push from Perez is going to be towards more changes. It is not just they badly need the money - which they do - the analysis of the situation is quite precise. It is backed by a lot of data.
"Young people are not watching 90 minutes a lot. The money coming through TV rights is diminishing and the business side of football, it has to change. It is just they went about it the wrong way. Perez forgot to talk to players, fans, other clubs, everyone. It was the worst PR campaign ever."
Modern businesses are all based on a model of constant growth. If you don’t grow you wither and die. If you don’t kill the competition you die. They’d try and kill each other if they didn’t need someone to play against
The growth is all in media and they don’t like that games like Saints v Burnley aren’t a worldwide attraction. They want the world to be watching every game. They want rid of Saints, Burnley et al except in the occasional David v Goliath amuse bouche
So if the league does disband, as looking likely, there should be some form of punishment for the 12 clubs involved in what was essentially an attempted coup. Banning from europe for the next few seasons as a minimum. You know there won't be any repurcusions though...
If this whole ESL thing had been attempted in the 90's, pre-internet and pre-social media, let's face it, it would have probably happened. It's nice to be pleased about the influence of social media for once.
I keep hearing this "young people don't watch 90 mins of football anymore" line. Yet never see any evidence or data behind it.
Is it just what these "experts" think is happening because of the way young people consume other media has changed?
Even if this is based on data, it is worth remembering for the past year, there has been more football on tv than ever before - and due to lack of a crowd it is a lower quality product than before too.
So should anyone be surprised that now that the market has been saturated with a lower quality product that viewing habits have changed? Previously, the games on tv were picked on how popular they'd be; based on importance of the fixture, derbies/rivalries, "big clubs" playing, etc. Now that every single game is on tv there are some dead rubbers that of course won't keep people entertained for as long.
I don't think it is as black and white as "young people have shorter attention spans therefore don't watch football anymore".
Here’s the Athletic’s take on what’s happened:
The day the Super League collapsed: ‘How can we ever work with these people again?’
Dominic Fifield, Sam Lee and more 3h ago
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The proposed breakaway Super League, the brainchild of 12 of Europe’s most famous clubs, is on the verge of collapse after an extraordinary day of threats, political posturing and livid fan protests culminating in a humiliating climbdown from the six-strong Premier League contingent. Their withdrawal appeared to terminally undermine the project, with their counterparts on the continent having now suspended the venture.
Barely 48 hours after football across the continent was left reeling by confirmation the English clubs intended to join Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan from Italy, and Spain’s Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, by splitting from UEFA competitions, the resolve of the so-called Dirty Dozen fractured spectacularly on Tuesday evening as the sheer scale of the backlash against the plans became clear.
A scheme long in the making and underwritten by the American investment bank JP Morgan effectively ended up capitulating in dramatic fashion. Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur all fell into line by the time the pubs closed, potentially risking financial penalties for pulling out.
Inter Milan eventually followed suit with the rest, having briefly sifted through the rubble of their proposals and with an insistence that the status quo still has to change in European football, eventually admitting they would need to reshape their plans. The project was officially suspended just after midnight in Europe.
Executives from the other 14 Premier League clubs held earlier a board meeting via Zoom on Tuesday morning where their disgust at the deception and arrogance of their fellow members, and the closed shop of the Super League, was laid bare.
Ed Woodward, the Manchester United executive vice-chairman, has already tendered his resignation – albeit he made no mention of the Super League as he fell on his sword – and others may yet be ushered out. One source suggested the landscape within the top flight had been inexorably scarred, with a desire among the 14 for reparations against individual owners and the architects of the Super League very real.
“How can we ever work with these people again?” he said. “They’ve betrayed us. They’ve spent years telling us barefaced lies.”
Yet the full-scale retreat only came after prime minister Boris Johnson had told supporters’ groups that he was prepared to drop “a legislative bomb” to prevent English clubs joining the Super League “cartel”, a threat taken up at a separate event by the leader of the opposition Keir Starmer. The Football Association backed the stance of the 14 other Premier League clubs, united in defiance of the Super League plan, while players at the clubs involved in the breakaway mobilised in opposition.
A remarkable day also saw:
Some of the 14 Premier League clubs push for points deductions for those involved in the Super League, citing the fact they have not dealt with the Premier league in good faith and, as a result, could be in breach of the owners’ and directors’ test.
UEFA ploughing on with their pledge to expand the Champions League and even offer a backdoor Super League-style route into the tournament, having held talks with a London-based private equity firm over the purchase of a £5 billion stake in the reformed venture.
One sponsor quit Liverpool and others threaten to follow suit with the captain Jordan Henderson making clear the players’ disgust at the events of the previous 48 hours.
The Manchester City manager, Pep Guardiola, railing against the non-competitive nature of the Super League’s closed shop and his players outraged at the prospect they might be denied the chance to play for their national teams or in the Champions League.
A contingent at Manchester United expressing their displeasure to Woodward, with Hector Bellerin leading the chorus of disapproval among the squad at Arsenal.
Chelsea’s technical advisor Petr Cech attempting to placate an angry group of fans who had gathered to protest outside Stamford Bridge ahead of the game against Brighton.
The climbdown has been seen as a victory for fan-power over billionaire owners. Yet even in victory, the repercussions of a divisive, traumatic few days are sure to linger.
‘All six will come back. Where else are they going to go?’
Within minutes of Tuesday’s 11am Premier League meeting concluding, one source on the call told The Athletic there was “huge anger” among the 14 clubs present. “It will die. It’s just a question of by which route,” a buoyant executive proclaimed.
Everton are believed to have been particularly outspoken about the plans for a breakaway Super League, just as they were vehemently opposed to Project Big Picture. Yet, while many were seething, there were no fanciful discussions about booting the rebel clubs out of the Premier League. “All six will come back,” it was said. “Where else are they going to go?”
Someone, however, would have to pay the price for what was perceived as an “offensive” move. And even before news broke of Woodward’s resignation from his role as executive vice-chairman of Manchester United, the feeling was it would be those operating below ownership level who would suffer the most.
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Ed Woodward, here with Avram Glazer in 2019, will leave Manchester United at the end of the year (Photo: Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Getty Images)
“We don’t want them gone as clubs,” it was claimed by an executive on the call. “But the executives? Yes.”
The rationale behind this thinking is that it wouldn’t be fair to punish the supporters, managers and players of the other sides because they weren’t given a say on the Super League proposals. But that doesn’t mean possible sanctions weren’t aired during the 14-club Premier League meeting.
One side speculated that points deductions could be handed out as they believe there has been a breach of good faith. This would certainly hurt the cabal of renegades more than any financial penalty. But while there were talks about hitting the ‘Big Six’ in their pockets, the overriding feeling was that it was more important to bring them back to the table first.
“It’s not about if they do it again,” one Premier League executive said. “It’s about a penalty for damaging the brand and the clubs that behaved properly.”
A discussion was had among the 14 clubs about how the owners’ and director’s test could be improved in light of the proposals. It was said that the tests could go further than “bankruptcy and criminal records” because “you now have to look at (their) actions”.
“These people should be banned from having football clubs again,” a source said.
Perhaps the most important weapon at the Premier League’s disposal was player power, and that proved to be the case late on Tuesday night as players from both Liverpool and Manchester United put out statements condemning the breakaway, while Liverpool captain Henderson organised a captains’ meeting on Wednesday.
“The players are the golden ticket,” said one source. “Imagine if they say ‘no’ to the Super League… That’s the silver bullet to this.”
Chelsea — last in, first out
“Sometimes in the middle of the storm is the calmest,” said Thomas Tuchel, flashing his most optimistic smile during a scheduled press conference on Monday afternoon as Super League fury raged all around. He could say little else, but he was wrong.
There were suggestions less than 24 hours after the trickle of timid statements of intent from the 12 rebel superclubs that Chelsea might be getting cold feet about their decision to stand against football’s established order. The players, many still in shock at a potentially career-harming decision made by their employer without their consultation or knowledge, were left less than reassured by a meeting with chairman Bruce Buck at Cobham.
Later in the day, Buck addressed a group of supporter representatives at a scheduled fans’ forum via Zoom, explaining the reasoning behind the club’s decision. The meeting did not include Chelsea Supporters’ Trust, who had branded the move “unforgivable” and “the ultimate betrayal” while experiencing an unprecedented surge in membership.
Those present were sworn to secrecy and Buck’s comments were not immediately published; Chelsea had no desire to be seen to be leading the Super League advocacy when they were not the ones driving the new league. But the fact that it took place at all undercut the notion of any board-level wavering at Stamford Bridge.
Tuesday turned the tide. As it became increasingly clear that relevant stakeholders and many football supporters around the world were vehemently hostile to the Super League as a whole and the individual clubs involved, discussions between Roman Abramovich and his Chelsea board began to focus on the need for a volte-face.
Then the storm got real: hundreds of fans, possibly more than a thousand at their peak, converged on Fulham Road with homemade banners, beers and bellows of defiance. There was abuse for Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, chants against the American owners and Manchester City, and even Abramovich himself.
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Chelsea fans make their feelings clear outside Stamford Bridge (Photo: Rob Pinney/Getty Images)
Traffic was halted and quickly diverted by the mass of bodies, marshalled by a significant police presence. Stamford Bridge security staff re-positioned metal barriers to prevent access to the concourse around the stadium while a visibly shaken Petr Cech pleaded with the crowd to give way to the Chelsea team bus, delayed on its short journey from the Chelsea Harbour Hotel. “I know, give us time,” the technical and performance adviser could be heard saying.
The peaceful protest became a party in an instant as news quickly filtered through the crowd of Chelsea’s decision to withdraw. “**** Super League” and “We’ve saved football” quickly gave way to the more traditional songs in the Stamford Bridge repertoire, including the one recalling Dennis Wise’s goal in 1999 against AC Milan at the San Siro, in the Champions League of all competitions.
They drifted away shortly before Chelsea kicked off 15 minutes late against Brighton. A goalless draw provided a timely reminder of the Premier League’s enduring competitiveness and hurt their Champions League qualification hopes, though on this surreal occasion a lack of intensity and focus from the home side can probably be excused.
Sources at Chelsea insist their U-turn wasn’t prompted by the extraordinary pre-match scenes outside Stamford Bridge, but rather by 48 hours of observing the near-universally negative reaction to the Super League announcement. They claim the launch was presented to them late with no time for any consultation, and they ultimately joined because they did not want to be left behind by the bulk of their rivals.
Having been last in, they were first out, even if the official confirmation did not come until after midnight. The damage that Super League participation had done almost immediately to the positive image Chelsea have been trying to build in recent years, primarily through the community and anti-discrimination work led by their foundation, is said to have weighed particularly heavily on Abramovich.
Nothing can undo that damage. Chelsea can claim no credit for being first to back down, having been one of the 12 clubs to push football’s equivalent of the nuclear button in the first place. That victory belongs to all those who stood in opposition, and no change of heart can ever remove the stain of this power grab from Abramovich’s ownership.
Reprieve falls a long way short of redemption.
Manchester City — ‘It is not a sport’
When City’s official Twitter account put up a quote from Pep Guardiola’s press conference with the headline “The boss speaks out!”, it was probably a sign of the way things would go.
“I would love the president of the committee to go around the world and explain how we got this decision,” the graphic said, which was strange considering it came from one of the clubs signed up to the Super League and not any of the vocal dissenters who had been taking the proverbial on social media for most of the day.
Guardiola did not show any hint of anger towards his employers during a shortened press conference — the ones who signed the club up to this idea without informing the vast majority of staff — but he made his displeasure at the very premise of the Super League very clear. “It is not a sport where the relation between the effort and the reward does not exist,” he said of a league with no relegation. “It is not a sport where success is already guaranteed, it is not a sport when it doesn’t matter where you lose.
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Guardiola in a pensive mood at City training on Tuesday (Photo: Tom Flathers/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)
Guardiola had felt blindsided by City’s decision to sign up to the Super League. When Project Big Picture was quashed last year he was satisfied that City were nowhere near the plans, which were driven by Manchester Unitedand Liverpool.
This time around, though, City were ready to join the party. Although they did not help to draw the plans up, CEO Ferran Soriano signed up on Friday after it was made clear the others would go on without City. Guardiola admitted during his press conference that he only found out on Sunday, a few hours before the official statements were made.
He did not appear to be fully against the idea publicly, saying he trusted the club in whatever they decided, but his comments regarding lack of competition were held up as concrete opposition.
Curiously, several City players retweeted the official account’s tweet in what was seemingly a further show of defiance towards the proposals, only to quickly undo them. They had been told on Monday not to discuss anything relating to the Super League, even privately, with City initially bullish and insistent they could ride out any public backlash.
On Tuesday, however, the players made their displeasure known during a Zoom call with Soriano, who also spoke to chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarakfollowing Guardiola’s press conference.
Fernandinho is said to have been the most vocal critic, while Kyle Walker, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne also voiced opinions. A source close to the squad says the players were united in their opposition. Some had been angered by the silence following Sunday night’s statement and a potential strike had been mooted ahead of the call.
The players’ concerns related to participation in the Champions League, which is a popular competition among the team, and, perhaps crucially, their stance they would not accept anything that led to them being banned from playing for their national teams.
They were reassured that international football would not be an issue but the displeasure of the squad is believed to have played a big part in City’s decision to pull out of the Super League later on Tuesday evening.
The players, though, were not told of the club’s decision during the meeting and, again, only found out via reports in the media later on.
City’s official statement to confirm the club’s U-turn arrived at 9.19pm and was all of 25 words long. It was followed shortly by a much more effusive offering from UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, welcoming “City back to the European football family” and praising the club’s “great intelligence in listening to the many voices — most notably their fans.”
“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,” he added, paving the way, perhaps, for the club to return to European football’s heartland in a much stronger position than ever before.
The club’s fans, who protested most vocally against the Super League and hung protest banners outside the stadium on Monday, meanwhile, may not have got the answers they demanded but at least they have got what they wanted: City are out.
Liverpool — John W Henry’s grand plan in tatters
Within 24 hours of Jurgen Klopp standing on the touchline at Elland Road and vowing to “sort it somehow”, angry opposition had snowballed to the point that Liverpool’s owners Fenway Sports Group were left isolated with nowhere to turn.
It was a testament to the power of the collective as staff, players, supporters, sponsors and politicians left Henry, Tom Werner and Mike Gordon in no doubt about their distaste for their greed. Once Chelsea and Manchester City had jumped ship, the writing was on the wall.
Shortly before 11pm on Tuesday, confirmation finally arrived on the club website in the form of a 47-word statement.
“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.”
No quotes, no-one in the ownership group taking responsibility. No open letter to the fans, no apology for all the hurt caused. It was pitiful from FSG.
Liverpool’s owners have performed some embarrassing U-turns during their decade-long ownership but none quite like the belated dance they did on Tuesday night.
The fury from the Kop towards FSG in recent years over planned ticket price increases, attempts to trademark the name ‘Liverpool’ and plans to tap into government cash by furloughing staff in the pandemic eased over time. But they won’t be forgiven for this. Their legacy has been wrecked.
Klopp had delivered on his promise by seeking urgent discussions with the FSG hierarchy on Tuesday to make his feelings known.
The manager, who wasn’t initially consulted about Henry’s plan — which was hatched during a series of Zoom calls with other rebel clubs — has always hated the idea of Liverpool signing up to a closed shop Super League. Klopp was furious the bond between his team and the supporters had been jeopardised by the damaging proposals.
Vice-captain James Milner had sent a clear message to the owners following Monday’s 1-1 draw with Leeds United when he reacted to the plans by saying: “I don’t like it and I hope it doesn’t happen.” Milner made it clear that was his own personal opinion but his team-mates watched that interview and nodded in agreement.
On Tuesday the squad’s WhatsApp group was a hive of activity. The players felt a duty to the supporters to take a stand.
Typically, captain Jordan Henderson, who is recovering from groin surgery, led from the front. He called an emergency meeting between Premier League captains for Wednesday and he co-ordinated the tweet put out by the Liverpool players at 9pm on Tuesday.
Henderson, Milner and Trent Alexander-Arnold all tweeted at the same time with Andy Robertson, Alisson, Thiago and Virgil van Dijk soon following suit.
Shortly before that Liverpool legend and non-executive director Kenny Dalglish had taken to social media to urge FSG “to do the right thing” after “the last few days have been difficult for everyone who loves Liverpool Football Club.”
Supporters also played their part. The owners had been taken aback by the demands of fans’ groups for all the banners and flags to be removed from the Kop ahead of Saturday’s Premier League home clash with Newcastle United. Protests would have followed outside the ground on matchdays for the rest of the season and there was talk of organising a widespread boycott of club merchandise. Once again FSG had misread the mood.
They were also numerous threats of being hit in the pocket as an array of Liverpool sponsors made their displeasure known. This quickly became toxic. The club’s official global timing partner Tribus followed through with that threat late on Tuesday night, saying they “will be withdrawing from this partnership.” Mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram also wrote a letter to the owners urging them to halt plans to form a breakaway league.
It remains to be seen what the future holds for Liverpool CEO Billy Hogan and FSG’s reign from here.
Hogan had been the only senior club executive quoted about the plans, and sent club staff an internal email on Monday.
He then cancelled a Zoom call to explain the plans further on Tuesday as the backlash took hold. It won’t be rearranged.
Arsenal — what now for Kroenke?
It was Hector Bellerin who broke rank first, taking to Twitter to quote the words of Arsene Wenger on his final day as manager: “To all the Arsenal lovers, Take care of the values of the club.” It wasn’t an explicit rejection of the Super League but an assertion of the Spaniard’s respect for the club’s traditions — traditions threatened by the theoretical breakaway.
Bellerin had been selected to represent the squad at the proposed captains’ meeting on Wednesday. Over the past few days, Arsenal’s players and staff had not received any explanation from the club about their plans, or the implications. That silence frustrated a set of players who feel they provided the club with co-operation on their wage cut initiative, only to see further redundancies made.
And then at 10.55 pm, the silence was broken. Arsenal were out, and they were the only club to explicitly apologise for their dalliance with the breakaway competition. “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.”
That apology is unlikely to be enough to pacify enraged supporters. For some, it was too little too late. The Arsenal Supporters’ Trust had advised chief executive Vinai Venkatesham to ensure Arsenal were the first English club to renege on the Super League. In the end, they were beaten by three others. A hallmark of Kroenke Sports and Entertainment’s Arsenal ownership is that the club are slow to react.
The apology was also somewhat disingenuous. The board’s open letter to the fans suggested that Arsenal’s involvement in the Super League was based on a fear of being “left behind” — in fact, Arsenal are understood to have been far more central to the planning process.
This is a project that dates back years, and has long been regarded as an inevitable end game.
The planned protest at Friday’s Premier League game is still scheduled to go ahead, although this time the target of chants and banners won’t be the Super League — it will be the owner, Stan Kroenke.
Tottenham — 20 years trying to get to the top table, then out in two days
Tottenham’s statement also came at 10.55pm on Tuesday, breaking 48 hours of silence in which the only club representative to speak on the matter was Ryan Mason in his first pre-match press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
Chairman Daniel Levy finally fronted up, admitting the club “regret the anxiety and upset caused by the ESL proposal,” but defending exploring a new structure that “sought to better ensure financial fair play and financial sustainability whilst delivering significantly increased support for the wider football pyramid.”
Not everyone will agree with that assessment of the aims of the Super League, and many will have noticed the next sentence’s call to “constantly review competitions and governance.” But at least Levy was putting his name to a statement of why it suited his club to tear up the existing fabric of football.
Before then, Mason had been left to answer questions on the Super League instead of introducing himself as interim head coach and previewing Wednesday night’s game against Southampton, a game that has been dwarfed by events this week. (While some clubs have been consumed with Super League drama this week, Jose’s Mourinho exit on Monday morning has at least kept the Spurs’ players’ focus on largely footballing matters.)
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Mason takes Spurs training on Monday (Photo: Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)
Mason said that since 10am on Monday when he got the job, his mind had been “consumed” by other things. “I can’t give an honest answer (about the Super League) if I don’t actually know what the situation consists of,” he said. Mason was asked again and repeated the same answer, that he had been “deep in a laptop, or on the training pitch, or trying to help the players in the classroom.” Asked again, Mason said, “It would be wrong of me to answer a question that I don’t know anything about.”
But after Chelsea and City pulled out in the early evening, the four remaining English teams in the Super League were left exposed. And Tottenham must have known they would face the same fury from their own fans if they did not.
Levy has spent 20 years trying to get Tottenham a seat at the top table of the European game and, with membership of the Super League, it felt as if he had finally done that. But he also knew how strongly Spurs fans — and the wider British public, and the British government, for that matter — felt about this.
Tottenham fans would have noticed the powerful impact Chelsea fans had on Tuesday outside Stamford Bridge and they also knew that the Saints game on Wednesday evening would have given the fans a chance to show up and vent their feelings. Beyond that, the Carabao Cup final on Sunday, with 2,000 Spurs fans attending, would have given them another opportunity.
There will likely be no repeat of Tuesday’s scenes from Chelsea now, but that does not mean that the fans will express their delight at the events of this week.
Manchester United — Woodward announces resignation
Whispers about Ed Woodward’s impending departure from Manchester United began to emerge on Tuesday lunchtime.
“He cannot survive if the Super League falls,” one agent commented on Monday.
His resignation was announced that evening, with United’s statement failing to mention the breakaway competition in which Woodward has appeared to be front and centre, just like he was in Project Big Picture talks last year.
One top-flight director told The Athletic: “He was the ringleader of all aggressive acts against the rest of our league. This was the latest. He had more up his sleeve too.” Ceferin, UEFA’s president, called Woodward and Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli “snakes” for agreeing to Champions League reforms on Thursday and staging their coup on Sunday.
Woodward told friends a different version of events, insisting his agreement with UEFA was made in good faith but Joel Glazer’s instructions on a Super League launch escalated over the weekend and changed the dynamic. Though he was not supportive of the scheme, he was obliged to go along with his employers. His resignation hints at his unease over the situation, although their relationship is understood to remain strong.
If it felt impossible for Woodward to come back after resigning from his role at UEFA to face his Premier League peers again, the reception at United was not much better. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was left in the dark until Woodward confirmed reports of a Super League were genuine once the team-sheets had been handed in for United’s 3-1 win against Burnley on Sunday, while a Zoom call with five or six players on Monday left many still confused.
The team’s questions about Premier League participation and the implications for international football were not assuaged by Woodward’s responses. On Tuesday afternoon Marcus Rashford gave a sense of the mood by posting on Twitter a photograph of the banner on the Stretford End which reads a quote from Sir Matt Busby: “Football is nothing without fans.” At 6.40pm, Luke Shaw was one of the first footballers to write at length on the subject, describing his “worry that these changes could impact the sport that I and millions of others love.”
At 10.55pm United confirmed they were out, saying they had “listened carefully to the reaction from our fans, the UK government and other key stakeholders.” What comes next will be key — if Woodward’s final act before he leaves at the end of the year is to see out the Glazers’ departure then his legacy will be very different indeed.
Will the ‘big six’ still get the Champions League they want?
Despite being Slovenia’s sports personality of the year in 2016, Ceferin was not a big name beyond his country’s borders until this week. After Ceferin replaced France and Juventus superstar Michel Platini as president of UEFA in 2016, he struggled to escape the perception he was keeping the seat warm for somebody else. Few think that now and certainly nobody would say it to his face.
Like many of his compatriots, he served in the Yugoslav People’s Army as a teenager and as a Slovenian soldier in the country’s 10-day war of independence in 1991. Unlike many of his compatriots, he is a third-dan black belt in karate and has driven across the Sahara Desert five times, once by motorbike.
Ceferin has spent much of the last two years trying to find a way to keep Europe’s big clubs inside the tent, while keeping the dream alive for the next tier of clubs and making sure everyone else is not left scratching around in lost property for boots and kit.
Throw in the financial turmoil caused by the pandemic and the challenge of having to organise Platini’s final brainwave, a (delayed) European Championship stretched over 12 countries, and it is obvious that Ceferin has not been dealt the best hand of cards. Lucky for him that he had such a strong bond with the head of the European Club Association, Juventus president Andrea Agnelli, right?
The pair got on so well, Agnelli asked Ceferin to be the godfather to his daughter two years ago. So, when it came time to sort out the latest expansion of the Champions League from 2024 onwards, Agnelli and Ceferin were side by side…until Saturday, when Agnelli turned his phone off and pretended to forget they were meant to be making a joint statement about the plans being agreed.
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Ceferin gave English clubs a chance to admit they had ‘made mistakes’ by joining the Super League (Photo: Matthew Ashton/AMA/Getty Images)
Agnelli, it turned out, had already signed another agreement to make Juventus a founding member of Super League from which the Italian side could not be relegated. On Sunday night, Agnelli and his 11 co-conspirators confirmed their treachery, quitting the ECA and the senior UEFA roles which several of them held.
But on Monday, Ceferin calmly confirmed his Champions League reform deal with the 240 leading clubs still left in the ECA and proceeded with a scheduled press conference to announce that deal, which included a cold-blooded assassination of Agnelli and his fellow “snakes and liars”.
There would be no climbdown, no last-ditch attempt to woo the rebels, no tears. Just venom.
But Ceferin was also careful not to burn all the bridges between his league and Agnelli’s. More than once he made it clear there was still a way back for the devious dozen. It was a message he repeated on Tuesday during UEFA’s annual congress but this time he was more surgical in his dismantling of the Super League gang.
Sensing weakness, he went for the English clubs, hoping to detach a straggler from the pack. “Gentlemen, you made a huge mistake,” he said.
“Some will say it is greed, others disdain, arrogance, flippancy or complete ignorance of England’s football culture. It does not matter. What does matter is there is still time to change your mind. Everyone makes mistakes.”
By 11pm BST, all the English clubs had indeed changed their minds.
All that remains now is the mopping-up operation. Contracts must be broken, penalties paid, apologies made but it seems unlikely that UEFA will issue any punishments. The humiliating defeat should be enough for most of them. People might want to check on Agnelli’s whereabouts, though.
But here is the great irony.
It is now very likely the 12 rebels, assuming they all return, will get a series of Champions League reforms that many other clubs, leagues, football federations and fans will think is a remarkable reward for such treachery.
Four extra Champions League slots, four more guaranteed games, a new format to flog to broadcasters, a backdoor into the tournament for two temporarily embarrassed aristocrats and even the promise of a greater say in how the tournament is marketed and run.
And there is even more.
As Ceferin revealed on Monday, he actually told Agnelli about another deal he was working on that the clubs might like in a conversation last week. Agnelli said the clubs would not need it, which Ceferin took as a vote of confidence in the overall package of reforms, not a hint that his erstwhile colleague may have secretly negotiated a better option.
The Athletic understands that Ceferin was referring to his talks with London-based private equity firm Centricus over the sale of a £5 billion stake in the new ECA/UEFA joint venture that will run the European club competitions. This money would more than fill the hole caused by COVID-19 and provide the perfect platform for a fresh start.
The offer is still on the table, although it is not an easy deal to conclude and this week’s misadventures will not have helped. But with the Super League threat neutered, there will be other offers, just as there will be new prospective broadcast partners and potential sponsors.
The war is over before it ever really started and the defeated have only lost their deposits and some dignity, while the victor must now be odds-on for a second Slovenian SPOTY.
Contributors: Dominic Fifield, Sam Lee, Matt Slater, Laurie Whitwell, Liam Twomey, Jack Pitt-Brooke, James Pearce
Good riddance. I remember when they were talking about the possibility of Celtic and Rangers joining the Premier League, (years ago), he said that he would rather play them than ‘the likes of Southampton’. What a colossal cockwomble.
The 'super clubs' can **** right off with any apologies too. No you didn't make a mistake, you knew exactly what you were trying to do. And the ONLY reason you have backed down is because you underestimated the backlash.
I'm entirely signed up to "young people aren't going to football as much" - but that's because it's so bloody expensive.
Take the ticket price down to a tenner, and cut the players wages in quarter. Then we'll see.
The 'they're not watching the full 90 on telly' sounds like balls.
Here's another option. Dock them all 20 points.
That'll make this seasons title race and relegation scrap suddenly VERY interesting.
Bet they watch.
While I agree with you, they aren't talking about actual football fans like us in this country. They are talking about the millions of youngsters across the world from the Tik-Tok/YouTuber generation. Not actual fans, but people who absorb content and who they'll make more money from.
While it's been great (hilarious) to see these clubs crumble, this is only the start. A European Super League in some form of another will still happen at some point in the future. That may be a breakaway league as this would have been, or it may be another revamp to UEFA competitions (separate to the revamp they voted through already this week).
Unless there is a huge reform and players take huge pay cuts and are given salary caps, clubs won't be able to cope long term and the need for more money/revenues will increase, and so too will the need for something like this. I would love for fan ownership to become a thing, I just can't see how that is possible.
I heard something earlier this week that was along the lines of if United owned the broadcast rights to all their matches, they could charge £1 a game and easily stream it to hundreds of millions of fans each week. The potential for big clubs to earn huge sums like that every single week is out there, and unless there is serious legislation from the league or government, surely it's just a matter of time before the next ESL/greedy broadcast idea comes around?
Also on the point of punishments to these clubs, maybe I'm being too pessimistic but I really can't see much happening.
Will UEFA and the PL will be too scared of annoying these clubs further? As much as I'd enjoy a league with out them, the revenues and broadcast deals would go through the floor.