The breakaway European Super League project lay in tatters after the six English Premier League clubs involved quit on Tuesday 48 hours after agreeing to join Italian and Spanish teams in the new elite soccer competition.
Manchester City were the first to back out of the venture and then Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur announced they were following suit. Chelsea are expected to complete the departure of the ‘Big Six’ when they submit withdrawal papers to the Super League company.
The Super League did not respond to a request for comment and the league’s chairman, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, cancelled a planned radio interview.
The league, which was announced on Sunday with 12 founding members, is now left with three Italian clubs — AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan — plus Perez’s Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid from Spain.
The Super League argued that it would increase revenues to the top clubs and allow them to distribute more money to the rest of the game.
However, the sports governing bodies, other teams and fan organisations said it would boost the power and wealth of the elite clubs and the partially closed structure of the league goes against European football’s long-standing model.
Unlike Europe’s current elite Champions League competition, where teams have to qualify through their domestic league, the founding Super League teams would have guaranteed themselves a place in the new competition every year.
After the storm of protests from fans, players, managers and governments, alongside threats of bans and sanctions from the game’s European and world governing bodies UEFA and FIFA, the English clubs bowed to pressure and threw in the towel.
Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward fell on his sword, announcing his resignation shortly before his club gave up on a project he had been influential in bringing about.
Most of the statements from the English club’s were short but Arsenal apologised to their fans for being involved.
“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.
“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,” read the London club’s statement.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin was quick to welcome Manchester City’s decision.
“I am delighted to welcome City back to the European football family,” he said.
“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.
It takes courage to admit a mistake but I have never doubted that they had the ability and common sense to make that decision,” he added.