Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea will begin the process of pulling out of the proposed European Super League, the clubs confirmed Tuesday.
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The reversal is a stunning U-turn for the Premier League clubs after Sunday’s announcement that they were among 12 of Europe’s biggest football sides planning to break away from the Champions League.
City were the first of the clubs to announce their decision, making a brief statement. It read: “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.”
In their statement, Arsenal “apologised” to their supporters, adding: “It was never our intention to cause such distress, however when the invitation to join the Super League came, while knowing there were no guarantees, we did not want to be left behind to ensure we protected Arsenal and its future.”
Liverpool said their involvement in the two-day-old project “has been discontinued” while United said they withdraw from the deal.
In a statement, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy said: “We regret the anxiety and upset caused by the ESL proposal.”
Chelsea, the first team to have reportedly begun negotiations to exit the competition, announced their withdrawal late Tuesday.
In a statement released late Tuesday, the Super 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.”
Inter Milan are also planning to withdraw from the Super League, sources confirmed to ESPN.
“As things stand, the Super League project is no longer considered to be of interest to Inter,” club sources told Italian news agency ANSA.
After City announced their exit, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said: “I am delighted to welcome [Manchester City] back to the European football family. They have shown great intelligence in listening to the many voices — most notably their fans.
“It takes courage to admit a mistake but I have never doubted that they had the ability and common sense to make that decision. 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.”
Craig Burley credits football fans around the world for their role in pressuring clubs to withdraw from the Super League.
Ceferin reiterated this statement early on Wednesday after news that Arsenal, Spurs, United and Liverpool would also be leaving the league was formally announced.
“I said yesterday that it is admirable to admit a mistake and these clubs made a big mistake,” he added.
“But they are back in the fold now and I know they have a lot to offer not just to our competitions but to the whole of the European game.
“The important thing now is that we move on, rebuild the unity that the game enjoyed before this and move forward together.”
The 12 announced clubs — Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus and the six Premier League sides — had said the ESL would provide greater financial support for the football pyramid with a planned €10 billion in solidarity payments to non-participating clubs to be distributed over an initial 23-year period.
The Super League organisers, headed by Madrid president Florentino Perez, had said they hoped to add three more founding members before launching their competition “as soon as practicable.”
Perez, who was scheduled to appear on the Spanish radio program “El Larguero” on Cadena SER on Tuesday night, instead skipped the interview to attend meetings relating to the proposed league, according to that show’s host, Manu Carreno.
Before their goalless draw with Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday, a group of Chelsea players went to chairman Bruce Buck to say they were opposed to the proposed league, sources told ESPN. Several hundred fans gathered outside Stamford Bridge hours before kick-off to voice their opposition to the club’s plan to sign up to the new competition.
Technical and performance director Petr Cech was seen on camera pleading with supporters to let the team bus enter the ground as fans blocked their access to the stadium.
News then filtered through that the Blues were drawing up documentation to reverse their decision to join, prompting cheers and chants of “We’ve saved football” from the fans who had been moved around 300 yards away from the stadium’s main entrance point.
Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel said his team had been distracted by the outpouring of anger at the breakaway plan.
“I was affected so I think the players were affected. We talk of nothing else but Super League before the match,” Tuchel said after the Brighton match. “Nobody asked about the match before. It is like this. You have to accept the distraction.”
Earlier in the day the Premier League’s 14 other clubs met to discuss the crisis along with the Football Association.
The Premier League issued a statement on Tuesday saying it “unanimously and vigorously rejected” the plans and were considering action to bring the six clubs to account.
The PFA released a statement welcoming news of the Premier League clubs pulling out and said “the impact will be long-lasting.” The statement added “these events should now be the start of a process rather than the end.”
Meanwhile in Spain, Barcelona’s participation in a new league would be conditional on the Liga club’s members voting in favour of the proposal, according to ESPN Deportes and Spanish media reports.
Catalan television station TV3 reported that the contract Barca president Joan Laporta signed with the other 11 founding member clubs included a clause that allowed the club to back out of the agreement should its members not agree.
The report added Laporta met Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman on Tuesday to explain the club’s position on the Super League and has arranged to speak with club captains Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Sergi Roberto on Wednesday. Barcelona were not immediately available to comment.
Unlike the Champions League, where teams have to qualify through their domestic league, the founding Super League teams would guarantee themselves a place in the new competition every year.
UEFA has warned it may impose sanctions against clubs and players who take part in the breakaway competition. News of the Super League also prompted statements of concern from public figures such as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French president Emmanuel Macron and Pope Francis.
UEFA had voted on Monday to accept changes to the Champions League format by expanding it from 32 teams to 36 with the reshaped tournament, due to commence at the start of the 2024-25 season.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino told the 12 breakaway European Super League clubs on Tuesday that they could not be “half in, half out” of the established football system and must face up to the reality of their decision.
A number of top players under contract at those six Premier League clubs had raised concerns about UEFA’s threat to ban them from playing for their countries at international tournaments, including the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Reuters contributed to this report.