This week, six English Premier League teams (Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur) said they were joining forces with Spanish powerhouses Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atlético de Madrid and the Italian trio juventus, inter milan and ac milan will launch a closed “super league”.
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Currently, European teams have to qualify each year for the prestigious Champions League through their domestic leagues, but the Super League would secure 15 places each season for elite clubs.
The massive shake-up has been engineered in part by the US owners of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United, who also run franchises in closed US leagues, a model they are trying to replicate in Europe. ac milan in italy is also owned by americans.
The owners of these clubs have made no secret of the fact that they wanted football to take a more American approach.
Liverpool’s principal owner, John W. Henry of the Fenway Sports Group has been talking about it for years.
During a press conference two years ago, he drew a comparison to the United States when he spoke of having “closed leagues.”
part of the beauty of soccer for many fans is the thrill of promotion and relegation (the movement of teams between different divisions based on their performances), but henry said the uncertainty made it difficult to share the money generated by the league more evenly.
“It is much more difficult to ask independent clubs to subsidize their competitors beyond a certain point when there is relegation and especially the way media is rapidly changing and consumed today,” henry argued.
his comments were seen as a step towards the americanisation of english football which many believe henry and the american glazer family, who own manchester united, have long been seeking since taking over their respective clubs.
related: the world reacts to the football split
Americans singled out as fans react furiously
those plans have now moved much closer to reality and it’s clear that many fans and experts of the game are not happy, with much anger directed at americans like henry.
In a fiery op-ed, the daily mail‘s martin samuel singled out the American owners as they tore apart the super league.
“a plastic competition, watched by plastic fans, of plastic sticks. these could very well be new clubs, in a new league, and freshly molded, in plastic,” he wrote.
“a league that no one else can enter; a league you can’t get out of no matter how useless you are. the end of meritocracy. that’s plastic.
“a closed plastic shop that would only distract the most superficial glory hunters. That’s why the venture capitalists who own Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool love it.”
uefa president alexander ceferin slammed the super league organizers as “snakes” and the 12 clubs involved as “the dirty dozen”, while fans also recorded their disgust with the american owners on social media social.
“It’s crazy how American owners are destroying soccer,” one fan tweeted.
“don’t allow the owners who are imposing themselves in the super league to hide behind the name of their club”, tweeted another. “It’s not liverpool and manchester united you’re mad at. It’s the Fenway Sports Group. juan henry joel glasser (owner of chelsea, roman) abramovich. (tottenham chairman daniel) lien. (army stan owner) kroenke. (manchester city owner, sheikh) mansour. and the rest. face their cowardice.”
“this man is a criminal,” another fan wrote alongside a picture of henry. “Football has been ruined. i think i speak for all liverpool and football fans when i say this has been the worst day in football history. john henry and fsg are a fucking disgrace.”
another fan accused henry and his company, the fenway sports group, of “(stabbing liverpool manager) jurgen klopp in the back”.
liverpool fans come red
Liverpool fans in particular are furious at the role their club has taken on in the radical shake-up.
Supporter groups responsible for decorating Anfield’s famous Kop during the lockdown said they will remove their banners and flags this week in protest.
spion kop 1906 announced on twitter: “we are sorry we can no longer lend our support to a club that puts financial greed above the integrity of the game.”
the liverpool team and their staff were reportedly abused while traveling to leeds for a premier league match this morning.
Klopp and Liverpool captain James Milner told reporters after the 1-1 draw against Leeds United that they did not support their own club’s plans to join a Super League.
“The team has nothing to do with it,” said Klopp, after James Milner spoke out against the proposal and confirmed: “I don’t like it and I don’t want it to happen.”
klopp said he would not leave his job, despite the latest break caused by the owners of liverpool.
said he was upset that the leeds players wore shirts in the warm-up that said: “football is for the fans. win it.”
also criticized former united star gary neville the sky pundit for including liverpool’s famous anthem ‘you’ll never walk alone’ in his condemnation of the project and believes personal criticism of liverpool football staff is unfair.
“The team has nothing to do with it and I really have nothing to do with it, but people treat us like we do. Leeds fans came here today before the game and were yelling at us,” he said.
“in the city when we took a walk this afternoon people yelled at us. we are employees of the club. I am responsible for many things and when I am involved in things I take criticism easily, but we are not involved in this.
“It’s hard right now when you hear all the experts talking about it. this club is bigger than all of us. we must not forget this. this club was built on tough times and went through tough times.”
klopp criticized samuel for his scathing article and neville, who criticized the proposed plan as an “absolute scandal”.
“when people like martin samuel say we should be condemned to hell, that’s not right,” he said.
“gary neville has no right to talk about our anthem. our owners made a decision but that is a part of the club. the whole club is bigger than any of us.
“You should calm him down a bit. we are human beings. Leeds fans didn’t know we had nothing to do with it. They yelled at us as if to say: ‘Let’s go to the super league!’ This is about human beings.”