Less than 48 hours after the formation of a new European Super League, several English clubs have already withdrawn from the controversial competition.
Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Manchester City have confirmed in public statements that they will no longer participate, some citing feedback from fans and other stakeholders.
The withdrawal announcements came amid multiple reports on Tuesday that the 12 members of the breakaway Super League were meeting to discuss the future of the competition, first reported by TalkSPORT. CNN has reached out to the Super League for comment but has not heard back.
Initial plans to form the breakaway Super League laid out on Sunday would have included six English clubs — Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur — alongside three teams from Italy — AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus — and three from Spain — Atlético Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid.
“I think this project has died today … and it is on the way to becoming a complete botch,” former Real Madrid President Ramon Calderon told CNN’s Richard Quest.
“I think it deserves it because it was a project destined to kill football. I think mainly at this time that we are living where many clubs are struggling to survive due to the economic problems from the pandemic, what football needs is unity, solidarity.”
English Premier League Manchester City was one of the first to announce its defection, saying earlier on Tuesday that it had begun the process of withdrawing from the exclusive competition. “Manchester City Football Club can confirm that it has formally enacted the procedures to withdraw from the group developing plans for a European Super League,” said the 2019 Premier League champion.
UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin welcomed Manchester City’s return to “the European football family.”
“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; from the world beating Champions League final right down to a young player’s first coaching session at a grassroots club,” said Ceferin in a statement.
Among a later wave of defections Tuesday, Arsenal apologized for its initial Super League decision.
“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,” the club said in a statement.
A Manchester United spokesperson echoed the sentiment, citing reactions from fans and the UK government as part of its decision to withdraw.
“Manchester United will not be participating in the European Super League. We have listened carefully to the reaction from our fans, the UK government and other key stakeholders,” the spokesperson said. “We remain committed to working with others across the football community to come up with sustainable solutions to the long-term challenges facing the game.”
Meanwhile, Manchester United Executive Vice-Chairman Ed Woodward is to leave the club at the end of 2021, according to the Premier League team. He joined United in 2005 and became executive vice-chairman in 2012.
A Liverpool statement said it could “confirm that our involvement in proposed plans to form a European Super League has been discontinued.”
“In recent days, the club has received representations from various key stakeholders, both internally and externally, and we would like to thank them for their valuable contributions,” Liverpool said.
Tottenham Hotspur also said it had “formally commenced procedures to withdraw from the group developing proposals for a European Super League (ESL).”
Meanwhile, a source close to Chelsea — another of the 12 founding members of the Super League — told CNN Sport that the club is preparing to ask for its own withdrawal from the European Super League.
The source said Chelsea leadership spent the last two days discussing the situation with its stakeholders, community and fans and decided they can’t break away and join the Super League if the fans aren’t invested in the project.
“It has never been about the money,” the source told CNN Sport, who added that Chelsea’s intention in joining the Super League was based on a desire to improve the game, a priority for club owner Roman Abramovich.