Athletic: Sponsor pressure and player revolt – the story of how the Super League folded within 24 hours

By Oliver Fisher -

It has been a chaotic 72 hours for football as the Super League burst onto the scene on Sunday night but now appears to have burst into flames already.

Milan were one of 12 clubs who signed up as a ‘founding club’ along with six Premier League sides, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid plus rivals Juventus and Inter. The six English sides have now officially pulled out – as have Inter and Atleti – and now The Athletic have given the background on what happened yesterday.

They report that some of the other 14 Premier League clubs were/are pushing for points deductions for those involved in the Super League, stating that they could be in breach of the owners’ and directors’ test.

UEFA meanwhile are dead set on their plans to reform the Champions League with a new structure, more teams and more games as was voted through on Monday. They have even held talks with a London-based private equity firm over a £5bn stake.

Pressure on the Premier League sides mounted throughout the day on Tuesday. One sponsor quit Liverpool and others threatened to do the same, and Jordan Henderson held a meeting with other club captains that highlighted the players’ disgust at the events.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola blasted the principle of the project in his pre-match press conference while his players privately were outraged at the idea they might be blocked from playing for their national teams or in the Champions League.

Hector Bellerin led an element of the squad at Arsenal who were fuming with the plans, while Manchester United also had a furious group of players. Chelsea’s technical advisor Petr Cech had to displace an angry group of fans who had gathered to protest outside Stamford Bridge ahead of the game against Brighton.

In amongst all the drama that was unfolding, Ceferin made a statement in which he cleverly declared that the door of UEFA was not shut to those teams that had decided to sign up for the ESL. He was “careful not to burn all the bridges” and “made it clear there was still a way back for the devious dozen”.

He sensed that the project may be unfolding and “he went for the English clubs” hoping to get one to leave so the house of cards came falling down. One by one, and by 11pm BST, all the English clubs had indeed changed their minds.

As per the report, what remains now is the mopping-up operation. Contracts must be ripped up, apologies made and some penalties paid but UEFA are unlikely to punish as the “humiliating defeat should be enough for most of them”.

The ironic part is that the 12 clubs will apparently “get a series of Champions League reforms that many other clubs, leagues, football federations and fans will think is a remarkable reward for such treachery”.

There will be “four extra Champions League slots, four more guaranteed games, a new format to flog to broadcasters, a backdoor into the tournament for two temporarily embarrassed aristocrats and even the promise of a greater say in how the tournament is marketed and run”.

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