The European Super League is dead. Long live the bloated Champions League.
An extraordinary few days came to a head on Tuesday evening when the house of cards fell, the ‘big six’ Premier League clubs of Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham all withdrew from a closed, elite competition which organisers claimed would benefit the game.
On Wednesday, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid joined them in performing an extraordinary u-turn - but comments from Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli, and his club, were concerning.
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Despite an outpouring of criticism, and watching on in horror as the project he basically led on started to crumble, Agnelli continued to show that he was tone-deaf to the general feeling of supporters across Europe.
With all the petulance of a spoilt teenager, he stated that he is “convinced of the beauty of that project”, with his club repeating the statement, as both conceded the plan would not get off the ground in its current form. However, by saying that - and that Juve are “committed to building long-term value for the company” - it is clear Agnelli will not stop here.
It would seem that the so-called ‘dirty dozen’, referenced by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, will continue trying to create a chasm between themselves and ‘the rest’.
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Agnelli and Juve’s statements, spoken like a company, or franchise, rather than the club its fans love so dearly, was in complete contrast to remarks from Brighton head coach Graham Potter, speaking before their goalless draw at another rebel club, Chelsea.
The Albion boss was adamant the situation had highlighted the fundamental traditions and values of the game cannot be lost - and cautioned that the football world needs to keep an eye on the self-styled elite.
“It felt like a monopoly trying to control the competition for profit and not the supporters," Potter told Sky Sports.
We have to remain vigilant. Football is a fantastic game and there are people who can exploit it. We need to fight for supporters and communities and clubs. Nobody wants a franchise or their fate to be decided on anything other than the pitch.
“Football is more than a business. It is about people and identities and values. The fans are everything, they are not customers, they are supporters."
WILL UEFA GO BACK ON ITS BOLD CRITICISM?
The European Super League announcement was timed to ambush the rubber stamping of Champions League reforms, which most of the breakaway 12 had pushed hardest for but saw as not good enough.
But what happens next? There are reports that UEFA, after all of its bravado on Monday, calling former colleagues “snakes” and calling out a competition which is a “spit in the face” of football lovers, is seeking extra finance to make further changes and appease the rebels.
They are still going to benefit, it would seem, from more places in the Champions League and a greater say in how the competition will run going forward. In effect then, UEFA will completely bow again to the self-styled ‘elite’.
On social media, supporters and players past and present voiced their satisfaction that pressure and widespread condemnation had won. Some even praised their clubs for pulling out, and this is where the worry lies going forward.
The 12 which signed up to the ESL have damaged their reputations and exposed the greed that most of us knew about already. Liverpool’s principal owner John W Henry grovelled to supporters in a video on Wednesday morning, apologising and taking sole responsibility for the Premier League champions’ part in it all.
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But it does not fly. Henry and his Fenway Sports Group knew there would be a backlash - he may have been surprised by how vicious it was - but he was aware that what he was doing would shake up the game.
We have surely reached a watershed moment in British football. The government has already launched a review which could lead to an independent regulator finally being brought in. There are calls for owners to go. Fit and proper person tests could be refined.
The Football Supporters’ Federation says: “The past 72 hours of white hot action and anger has killed domestic involvement in the Super League but that doesn’t mean fans can take their foot off the accelerator – a return to the status quo is unacceptable and will only allow these unscrupulous owners to regroup.”
It has called for a German style ownership model which gives greater power to supporters. No option should be left off the table. This is a war which is only truly beginning, and there is no better time to wrestle back control of it.
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