Football

The European Super Leave: Clubs call it quits on ESL

Fan groups not appeased despite club's stand-down; Woodward to leave United

All of the English Premier League's six European Super League (ESL) representatives bailed from the project yesterday morning (Singapore time), prompting the collapse of the breakaway competition.

The English clubs faced pressure from the British government, fans, players, pundits and football authorities before eventually caving in just days after the project was announced last Sunday.

Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool all issued statements with varying degrees of contriteness.

The other teams who had signed on to the project are Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan.

City and Chelsea were the first to bow out, with Blues fans protesting outside Stamford Bridge and delaying the kick-off of their 0-0 EPL draw against Brighton & Hove Albion yesterday morning.

Supporter groups of the other five English teams were also united in their opposition to the ESL and by the time the Blues' match had ended, news had already filtered through that Chelsea were out.

Hours after City's statement that they had "formally enacted the procedures to withdraw", Chelsea said: "Having joined the group late last week, we have now had time to consider the matter fully and have decided that our continued participation in these plans would not be in the best interests of the club, our supporters or the wider football community."

With the Chelsea Supporters' Trust calling for the heads of chairman Bruce Buck and chief executive Guy Laurence, the ESL claimed its first high-profile casualty as news broke that United's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward had resigned and would leave his post at the end of the year.

United players Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and Luke Shaw had put out social media posts either explicitly or more subtly suggesting their opposition to the ESL, while legendary Red Devils boss Sir Alex Ferguson and his former charge Gary Neville have both come out against the breakaway competition.

On Woodward, Neville said on Sky Sports: "Every single executive who sits at the Premier League table, on these Uefa and Fifa committees, they need throwing out of that club. There is no way they can be trusted.

"Woodward knew his time in football was finished. Woodward is the trunk of the tree, we now need to go for the roots."

Early this morning, United co-chairman Joel Glazer finally broke his silence via an open letter. He wrote: "You made very clear your opposition to the European Super League, and we have listened. We got it wrong, and we want to show that we can put things right...

"Although the wounds are raw... I am personally committed to rebuilding trust with our fans."

His belated contrition came after similar comments from some of his ESL counterparts.

Arsenal said: "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.

"We know it will take time to restore your faith in what we are trying to achieve here at Arsenal."

Meanwhile, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy said: "We regret the anxiety and upset caused by the ESL proposal.

"We felt it was important that our club participated in the development of a possible new structure that sought to better ensure financial fair play and financial sustainability whilst delivering significantly increased support for the wider football pyramid."

Liverpool's principal owner John Henry tried to insulate the rest of the club from the ESL debacle, saying: "I alone am responsible for the unnecessary negativity brought forward over the past couple of days".

He added: "It's something I won't forget. And shows the power the fans have today and will rightly continue to have...

"Over these 48 hours, you were very clear that it would not stand. We heard you. I heard you."

However, the Spirit of Shankly supporters' union responded, saying: "This PR exercise is too little, too late. These crocodile tears will not wash."

Football