The Premier League game at the Emirates between Arsenal & Fulham on April 18, 2021 ought to have been an average fixture between two London clubs.
It was anything but… not due to Eddie Nketiah’s 97th-minute equaliser.
The 1-1 score was irrelevant. There was a bigger story that was emerging out of the shadows. A tale that would make fans mad and confused. The Super League, the feared league was born.
Here, Mirror Football Remembers the impact of one of the most dramatic 48-hours in European football’s history – and plans to revive the Champions League.
The Times published an article claiming that 12 European top sides planned to leave UEFA and create their own league just seconds after noon on that infamous Sunday. “super league”.
These 12 teams were Manchester United and Manchester City, Tottenham, Chelsea.
The new competition would guarantee entry to all members who are found, regardless of their domestic performance. This would allow them to receive huge amounts of cash. The expectation was that three more teams would become permanent members. Five additional teams would be qualified through their domestic leagues.
The competition replaces the Champions League, Europe’s most prestigious club event.
It also emulated America’s model where clubs are franchises and relegation is eliminated. The English football pyramid was closing in on its end. It had been around for more than 100 years and was built from the bottom up.
It wasn’t an accident, though.
The threat of a “super league”Because the biggest clubs believed UEFA required them more than the governing body, they had been in existence for years. These top European teams had the best players, best brands, and most fans.
UEFA was already buckled under the pressure. The deadline was hours away “super league”Rumours spread, and controversial plans emerged for a revamped Champions League. It would include 36 teams, rather than 32. Two clubs would be granted entry based upon their history. It provided a safety net to those who didn’t qualify, eliminating any competition.
This wasn’t enough for the big clubs, however, who were expected to be backed by JP Morgan’s £5billion investment – and that was before sponsorship and television rights. UEFA could not match the numbers being thrown around by the media.
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As the afternoon progressed, it became apparent that this was much more than a rumor. Premier League, UEFA, and even the UK government condemned the proposal.
“If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we… will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever,”UEFA was furious.
The Premier League was added: “A European Super League will undermine the appeal of the whole game and have a deeply damaging impact on the immediate and future prospects of the Premier League and its member clubs, and all those in football who rely on our funding and solidarity to prosper.”
Oliver Dowden was the former culture secretary. “We have a football pyramid where funds from the globally successful Premier League flow down the leagues and into local communities. I would be bitterly disappointed to see any action that destroys that.”
The response was immediate and damning. Fans began to realize that an announcement was coming.
“The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust (CST) continues to wholeheartedly oppose the creation of a breakaway competition to the Champions League,”An announcement was made by one group. An alternative organisation was also added “The board of Tottenham’s Supporters Trust is deeply concerned by rapidly escalating reports linking Tottenham with a breakaway European Super League. A concept driven by self interest as the expense of the values of the game we hold so dear.”
Gary Neville, one of the supporters, was furious. The ex-england international broadcast his frustration live on television after Man Utd’s win against Burnley. It was one of the most memorable moments in the entire saga, and reassured fans that they were correct to be unhappy.
“The reaction to it is that it’s been damned and rightly so,” said Neville. “I’m a Manchester United fan and have been for 40 years of my life but I’m disgusted, absolutely disgusted… they’re breaking into a league without competition? That they can’t be relegated from?
“It’s a complete disgrace, and we need to take the power back from the top clubs in the league. It includes my club… it is pure greed.
“They’re imposters, the owners of these clubs, the owners of Liverpool, the owners of Manchester City, the owners of Chelsea, they have nothing to do with football in this country… “Burnley will be awarded the title. Fulham should stay up, and United, Liverpool, and Arsenal should be relegated.”
And that was just a snippet of Neville’s rant. It was obvious many opposed the idea of a “super league” – yet those involved powered on.
At 11pm on Sunday evening, the Super League was officially announced.
Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli resigned from UEFA’s Executive Committee and as chair of the European Club Association. The architects of the new competition were turning their backs on the existing structure. It was a sobering and surreal moment in the game’s history.
“Super League will bring together the most talented clubs and players around the globe, creating excitement and drama like nothing else in football.” promised the competition’s official website – which still exists.
And they were prepared for the backlash. The Super League filed pre-emptive court motions to protect players from being banned by UEFA and FIFA, allowing them to continue playing in competitions like the World Cup.
Yet that didn’t appease footballers, most of whom dream of winning the Champions League. Ander Herrera and Mesut Ozil were among the first to tweet their opposition of the Super League – and they certainly weren’t the last.
Following Leeds’ match against Liverpool at Elland Road, which was pickedeted by angry fans from both clubs, Patrick Bamford and James Milner condemned the plans. Jurgen Klopp also condemned them. It was difficult to find people who supported the Super League.
Florentino Perez of Real Madrid tried to console his supporters by saying that they would win the competition. “save football”. In reality, it would save his club a growing pile debt.
Real and Barcelona were left with serious financial problems by the Covid-19 epidemic. They could compete again with English clubs by joining the Super League, which was an opportunity to improve their finances.
There was an opportunity to grab power. The strain was felt by many clubs across the continent, who hadn’t seen their fans in the stadiums in more than a year. The Super League promised “solidarity payments in excess of £10bn”to all those not in the competition. People who were not invited were seen to be vulnerable and available for grabs. It was a cynical act.
Some of the founding members started to feel anxious after more than a day’s condemnation.
They were founding members of the Super League, but their chiefs weren’t on the Super League executive board. Perez was president. Liverpool’s John Henry, Arsenal’s Stan Kroenke, Man Utd’s Joel Glazer and Man Utd’s Joel Glazer – all three owners of American sporting organizations where the franchise system thrives – were vice presidencies.
Man City and Chelsea did not need the Super League as the other teams. Both had very wealthy owners at the time and were in line to compete for the Champions League final. They refused to say no when asked and said they would join the new competition in order to avoid being left behind. They were able to get on board the ship when it started to sink because of their wealth.
UEFA felt this anxiety. “Gentleman you made a huge mistake… there is still time to change your mind,”Aleksander Ceferin, president of the governing body spoke to their general assembly on Tuesday morning.
On the one hand, pressure was increasing. “Dirty Dozen”As they are now known. After meeting with Richard Masters (CEO of Premier League), Boris Johnson, UK prime minister, threatened to implement legislative measures to stop new competition. Amazon has since confirmed that they won’t be the broadcaster.
Managers and players continued to rebel against their bosses. “It’s not football if you cannot lose,”Pep Guardiola stated that Jordan Henderson had called an emergency meeting of Premier League captains. “We don’t like it, we don’t want it to happen,”Later, the Liverpool skipper was tweeted.
At 6:15pm, protests began at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea were scheduled to play Brighton, but the team bus could not get in due to the hundreds of supporters blocking the entrance. Petr Cech, Blues legend tried to placate supporters but they refused to budge.
The protest made it seem unlikely that the game would be allowed to proceed… but then it happened. The BBC announced that Chelsea had quit the game at 6:45pm. This was the beginning and end of the game. Later in the evening, all six English teams with their owners beg for forgiveness.
Agnelli confirmed that the project was canceled and four more teams left the next morning. Real and Barcelona were the only remaining teams. The Super League was gone.
Although the Super League ended in dramatic circumstances, its fundamental premise, which allowed the most financially powerful clubs in Europe to dominate European football, remained largely intact.
The six English clubs were fined just £3.6million each for their involvement, a drop in the ocean compared to calls for them to be relegated from the Premier League. Any further attempts to join the aforementioned clubs will be rejected. “super league”A 30-point deduction would be added to the bill. But, it is not clear if that would be actually imposed.
Some believe the 12 clubs met their goals. UEFA continues to push for two Champions League spots for clubs based on their coefficient ranking.
Proposals for next season would guarantee Man Utd’s and Roma’s places in Europe’s largest competition. This would devalue the Premier League’s top four races. These 12 clubs won’t be able again to participate in Champions League football once the 36-team tournament is set up.
The Super League was a 48 hour-long saga that did much to shame the game. However, those involved are unlikely to care. Their power grab has strengthened Europe’s elite and given them the confidence they need to go back if they wish.
Many Super League fans find it difficult to remember the past. The possibility of the Super League being revived in some form or another is exhausting.