‘A grotesque concept’: What do other Premier League clubs think of Super League plans?

The remaining 14 Premier League clubs met on Tuesday to discuss their next steps

Ben Burrows@benburrows_
Tuesday 20 April 2021 18:43
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Six English clubs join breakaway to form new European Super League

The Premier League is reeling from news that six of its leading clubs intend to join a new European Super League.

Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham are all part of a new proposal for a tournament that they hope will rival the Champions League.

They intend to join as one of 12 ‘founder members’ of the venture alongside the likes of Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona as well as Serie A clubs Juventus and Inter Milan.

The plans have been met with heavy criticism with supporter groups and leading football figures such as Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher speaking out against them, while politicians have also pledged to do what they can to stop the move.

The remaining 14 Premier League clubs, who met on Tuesday to discuss their next steps, are also against the proposed changes which could even lead to the ‘big six’ breaking away and leave their domestic competitions.

Here we take a look at what has been said by the clubs and owners so far:

Wolves

Wolverhampton Wanderers on Tuesday afternoon said they “condemn” the proposals for the European Super League. Wolves, who have featured in the Europa League in recent seasons, released an impassioned statement hitting out at plans for the breakaway tournament.

“Like most members of the Premier League and EFL, at Wolves we have a rich history spanning nearly 150 years,” the statement began. “At periods of that history, we were one of the most successful and decorated clubs in England, falling out of country’s top three just once over a nine-year period and winning the league three times. But at others we tumbled down the leagues, spending seasons in the second, third and fourth tiers, almost going out of existence on more than one occasion.

“In sport, nothing is forever; champions come and go, dynasties disappear, sleeping giants awake and new challengers test the status quo. That is the beauty of sport, and what epitomises the beautiful game. Football is about fight, competition, ups and downs. Uncertainty is there to be embraced, not to be protected from.

Wolves’ Molineux ground

“Unfortunately, a group of individuals, who own some of Europe’s proudest football clubs, have proven to the world that they are afraid of that uncertainty. European football is the pinnacle of the domestic game, and the prize for success in leagues across Europe, with no limitations on who can qualify, as long as it is on sporting merit. But these individuals have plotted and schemed to find a way to exist in a small and comfortable bubble, free from the challenge of fair competition. And now they have united the whole of the football world against them.

“Our promotion and relegation systems, built on solid foundations of competition and fairness, create promise, ambition, success and failure – all of which are essential in the sport. If you work hard enough and operate with greater intelligence and commitment than your competitors, you will be successful, you can challenge the top clubs and rise to their level through your own efforts, and that cannot change. 

“The plans for this breakaway league represent the complete opposite. They present values which contradict that of Wolves and [club owners] Fosun tremendously, which is why Wolves would categorically reject any invitation of involvement in the future. Regardless of the level this football club operates at, we will always require open competition, and condemn schemes which protect its clubs’ standings at the top of the game.

“We must be clear that we do not condemn the clubs involved, nor their manager or players, but the people in charge who have undermined both us as a competitor and English football as a whole by making this decision. We hope and believe the campaign will be withdrawn, but regardless expect English football to continue to prosper and evolve each year, while maintaining the entertainment and competitiveness it has held for more than 100 years.

“As a club, we will continue to compete and represent our global fanbase with pride and passion, both on and off the pitch. The supporters are the lifeblood of this football club, and we take great pride in representing them every single day. Wolves and the English football pyramid will prosper with or without those who are willing to destroy more than a century of tradition and bring our beloved game into disrepute.”

Leicester City

Foxes boss Brendan Rodgers, whose side are also on course for a top-four finish, said the plans were a demonstration of business overtaking sport.

“There has been a line drawn in the sand with all of this,” he said. “It has moved across from what looks very much like a purely business proposal.

“All the merits of teams and rewards in sport, it looks like from the outside that isn’t really taken into the ideas going forward.”

Leicester, who won the 2015-16 Premier League title, added their voice of disapproval to the breakaway plans.

A club statement read: “Competitive integrity and merit-based achievement are fundamental principles of the sport which, if compromised, will cause irreparable damage to the game, to the clubs whose legitimate aspirations underpin the entire football pyramid and to the communities those clubs serve.

“As custodians of our respective clubs, it falls to us to uphold football’s values, the solidarity and unity that protect the future of the sport and to ensure its commercial successes help strengthen its foundations throughout the pyramid and into the grassroots game.

“Football clubs exist for their supporters, whose passion and devotion are not simply a response to the game, but a fundamental and indispensable part of it.

“Their contribution is fed by their right to dream - a right we share a collective responsibility to protect.”

West Brom

West Brom are the latest Premier League club to issue a statement condemning the Super League project. The club criticise the Premier League’s ‘big six’ for turning their backs on English football, and say the proposal is one “no genuine football fan – even if they follow one of those six teams – can support”.

The statement read: “West Bromwich Albion is wholly opposed to the plans brought forward to establish a new European Super League. As a founder member of The Football League in 1888, the club believes in the principles of fair competition; in allowing all fans to dream that this year could be their year, and with that, the knowledge that poor performance may bring the consequences of relegation.

“A closed league is not one that any club outside of the so-called “Big Six” can endorse, and one it is apparent no genuine football fan – even if they follow one of those six teams - can support. The six Premier League clubs taking this step have turned their backs on English football, dismissing any concerns for the future of our game at all levels.

“To take away the dreams of millions of fans, and the opportunity for their respective clubs to earn success, cannot be allowed, and Albion will do everything within its power to preserve the integrity of competition the club helped establish 133 years ago.

“We stand alongside all clubs, players and supporters who believe in open competition, and understand that the future of English football is dependent on our collective strength to oppose these divisive and selfish plans.”

West Ham

The Hammers are flying high in the Premier League table and yet that would count for nothing under the new system, with lowly Arsenal and Tottenham automatically awarded places in the Super League regardless of achievement.

“As a Club that was founded by working-class shipbuilders over 125 years ago, is deeply rooted in its own community and is acutely aware of the traditions of English football, we passionately believe that there should be no barrier to supporting West Ham United and these proposals go entirely against the integrity of our Beautiful Game.

“The foundations of our Club and our sport are based on the integrity of competition and the loyal support of our fans who have grown up as members of the Claret and Blue Army and followed us over land and sea.

“These proposals are an attack on sporting integrity, undermine competition, and ignore those supporters, and those of the thousands of clubs and millions of players, from the Premier League to Sunday League, who can aspire to reach the top of the game just like our 150-plus homegrown Academy of Football graduates who came from grassroots and were developed into first-team players.

“Our supporters have been there throughout our 125-year journey, for our FA Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup wins, our promotions and many other memorable moments.

“These proposals go totally against the ethos and values – the West Ham Way – that have inspired us to those unforgettable successes and will shape the next generation of Hammers, on and off the pitch.

“West Ham United will continue to do everything possible standing together with its supporters, government, governing bodies and the wider football community to resist this attack on football in the best interests of our Club and of the game we all love.”

Everton

Liverpool’s Merseyside rivals issued a statement from the club’s board, hitting out at the “preposterous arrogance” of those involved.

“Everton is saddened and disappointed to see proposals of a breakaway league pushed forward by six clubs,” a club statement read.

“Six clubs acting entirely in their own interests. Six clubs tarnishing the reputation of our league and the game. Six clubs choosing to disrespect every other club with whom they sit around the Premier League table.

“Six clubs taking for granted and even betraying the majority of football supporters across our country and beyond.

“At this time of national and international crisis - and a defining period for our game - clubs should be working together collaboratively with the ideals of our game and its supporters uppermost.

“Instead, these clubs have been secretly conspiring to break away from a football pyramid that has served them so well.

“And in that Pyramid Everton salutes every club, be it Leicester City, Accrington Stanley, Gillingham, Lincoln City, Morecambe, Southend United, Notts County and the rest who have, with their very being, enriched the lives of their supporters throughout the game’s history. And vice versa.

“The self-proclaimed ‘Super Six’ appear intent on disenfranchising supporters across the game - including their own - by putting the very structure that underpins the game we love under threat.

“The backlash is understandable and deserved - and has to be listened to. This preposterous arrogance is not wanted anywhere in football outside of the clubs that have drafted this plan.

“On behalf of everyone associated with Everton, we respectfully ask that the proposals are immediately withdrawn and that the private meetings and subversive practises that have brought our beautiful game to possibly its lowest ever position in terms of trust end now.

“Finally we would ask the owners, chairmen, and board members of the six clubs to remember the privileged position they hold - not only as custodians of their clubs but also custodians of the game. The responsibility they carry should be taken seriously.

“We urge them all to consider what they wish their legacy to be.”

Everton have spoken out against the plans

Leeds United

Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani also spoke out against a move which would “kill dreams of players and fans”.

Radrizzani posted on Twitter: “Absolutely against the sporting spirit, the dream of millions of fans to conquer the champions on the field, with planning, vision, work.

“Kill dreams of players and fans. The teams are fans and we are custodians of the club.”

Aston Villa

Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow branded the Super League a “grotesque concept”.

“These proposals do away with sporting merit,” he said on BBC Radio Four. “It would enable a small number of clubs to be in this competition come what may and, for millions of people in football, that goes against everything the sport means and stands for.

“The idea is that the uncertainty that comes with sport, that makes it so compelling, that we all love, is actually damaging to the business model of these huge clubs.

“So the scheme is designed to take away that uncertainty, to give predictability to their businesses so that, if they’re badly managed or have a poor year, they’re still in the premier tournament.

“Does that sound like sport or football to you? To me it sounds a grotesque concept.”

Crystal Palace

Eagles chairman Steve Parish feels a united front of opposition could help bring a positive collective approach for change.

“We all know it’s been brewing for a long time, don’t we? From the leaking of Project Big Picture, you know, the constant things that we deal with in the Premier League really, which are the attempts to load the dice,” Parish told Sky Sports.

“We might look back on this though and think that this is actually quite a good day for football, because what we have seen is people massively overplaying their hand, in my view.

“I don’t know what day they thought that anybody would react well to this or it would all be OK, but you know to unite Sadiq Khan, Boris Johnson, Emmanuelle Macron, Jurgen Klopp, every football fan in the country, you guys (Sky), every chairman other than the top six, every chief exec together on a Sunday afternoon is quite some talent.

“I’m really, really encouraged by the outpouring from everybody and I think we may actually get into a very good place I hope after this.

“I’m a fan. This is my club I have supported since I was four years old. I’m involved in football because I think that there’s a dream, as naive as I might be, that one day we might play in Europe.

“What is the point for all of us if that dream is taken away?”

Fulham

Fulham owner and chairman Shahid Khan denounced proposals.

Khan, who also owns NFL franchise the Jacksonville Jaguars, said in statement on the Fulham website: “I join with the entirety of Fulham Football Club, and 13 fellow Premier League clubs, in denouncing the proposed European Super League.

“The concept will not serve the game or our most important stakeholders - the generations of football fans here in England and throughout Europe who have been as loyal to their domestic leagues, and the opportunities they offer, as they are faithful to their favourite team.”

Brighton

Brighton, who are fighting to stay in the Premier League, expressed their dismay at the proposals of a “closed-shop for all but the largest clubs”.

A statement from the Seagulls read: “Brighton & Hove Albion are totally opposed to plans for a breakaway European Super League as it would destroy the dreams of clubs at every level of the domestic game.

“These plans are the latest in an alarming and growing list of clandestine attempts from a small group of clubs whose actions would be wiping out close to 150 years of football’s tradition, competition, and sporting progress through merit.

“The ups and downs of football - promotion, relegation, winning titles and cups, challenging for, or missing out, on a European place - are all part and parcel of the drama, jeopardy, joy and heartbreak that makes our game the most watched and most loved in the world.

“These key attributes create significant value from which we feed a financial support structure which helps to sustain football at every level in our country and well beyond. By contrast, a European Super League would concentrate value for the benefit of a small number of clubs.

“The efforts to create a closed-shop for all but the largest clubs demonstrate a clear lack of respect for the contributions of all clubs within the domestic leagues in this country and across Europe.

“Plans for a European Super League also totally disregard fans, the lifeblood of our sport at professional levels, and fly in the face of the views and wishes of the overwhelming majority of football supporters of all clubs.

“These clubs, like Brighton & Hove Albion, invest heavily to support their own dreams, and those of their fans, to play at the highest level they can, and to help create a sense of pride in their own clubs across the country.

“Off the pitch, we remain custodians of our clubs on behalf of past, present and future generations of fans and the communities we all represent. This is a responsibility we believe we must all take very seriously.

“It has been hugely encouraging to see universal opposition and widespread condemnation from across the game from various football authorities, fans, players, commentators, pundits and media, and all-party opposition in government.

“We will continue to work with those groups, including the UK Government and MPs of all political parties, football’s governing bodies and all of our colleagues across football to oppose and defeat these plans.

“Ultimately, we are committed to a thriving domestic league and pyramid with the ultimate reward of European competition for achievements and success on the field. We remain open to a transparent, calm and rationale dialogue with all clubs to achieve this.”

Brighton have condemned the proposals

Burnley

American owners ALK Capital completed their takeover of Burnley in December 2020.

Clarets chairman Alan Pace issued an open letter to the club’s fans in which he called for the appointment of an independent regulator to “protect English football with legislation”.

The letter, published on the Burnley website, read: “Dear supporters, A breakaway Super League should never have happened, but this is about much more than club self-interest and is an example of how the governance of football in this country and throughout Europe needs to be reformed.

“The six Premier League clubs taking this step have turned their back on our moral duty as custodians of the game to protect English football and, the spirit of the sport, at all costs. Weak governance has led us to this point.

“Therefore, today I am calling on Boris Johnson and Oliver Dowden to follow their welcome intervention and now appoint an independent regulator to protect English football with legislation.

“As a former financier, I understand the commercial considerations for these clubs and can appreciate their frustration at being the largest revenue drivers for the UEFA Champions League, without receiving the same levels of influence and reward.

“However, this is a move which does not treat fans or the game’s history with the respect it deserves and is not the solution.

“We need to ensure that football is protected. The game is bigger than all of us, and its future cannot be compromised by self-interest. The contempt the proposals have received was inevitable.

“It is truly a shame that it has come to this. We are the greatest league in the world and we can do more to bring people together and set the path forward for all and not just the few.

“We have a responsibility to all that have come before us and all those who will follow in the wider game.

“While we too at Burnley have ambitious plans to grow the club’s revenues, those plans have always been on the back of performance, both on and off the pitch, and not artificial protectionism.

“As my business partners and I have now been working and living in Burnley for several months and are in the process of moving permanently to the area, I would greatly encourage my fellow chairmen to walk the streets around their local communities and get to know them personally, rather than creating more distance between themselves and fans.

“This is also why I invite No10, the Government and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to now legislate.

“Ultimately, we need a strong regulator in the style of OFTEL or OFCOM to protect and build the interests of English football. It’s time to do things differently!

“Over the coming days, I will be working hard alongside my fellow club owners and governing bodies to fight these proposals and find a solution to improved football governance in this country.

“I welcome initial noises coming from the UK Government and encourage them to provide strong leadership on these proposals, given their seismic impact on the UK’s cultural landscape. Yours, in Football, Alan Pace.”

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