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How the heart of English football brought down the Super League

What a dog’s breakfast.

What an unmitigated disaster.

Just two days after the European Super League was announced, it’s as good as dead with the withdrawal of the six English clubs which made up half the breakaway teams.

The clubs had no choice — the fans had spoken out against a league that goes against the very principle of English football: you earn your spot.

The idea of a closed shop in a sport in which promotion and relegation are fundamental outraged the fans of not only the clubs that were missing out, but also those of the breakaway teams.

The billionaire American owners of clubs like Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool have shown they have no understanding of the rich traditions of English football, where no matter how big or small, the clubs are nothing without their supporters.

Chelsea fans protest outside Stamford Bridge stadium in London. (

AP: Matt Dunham

)

Those owners were guilty of the hubris of assuming they could do what they wanted without any blowback and they were stunningly wrong.

They showed they had no understanding of English football’s culture.

Without the fans, Manchester United, City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspurs would never have become the global mega-brands that they are today.

The former England international Gary Neville nailed it on Monday when he spoke of the disconnect between the owner of Manchester United — the club he played for and supported all his life — and the fans.

“I’m disgusted with Manchester United and Liverpool the most,” he said on the UK’s Sky.

“Manchester United, 100 years, borne out of workers from around here, and they’re breaking away into a league without competition that they can’t be relegated from?

And so, we saw Chelsea’s fans protesting outside the club’s home, Stamford Bridge denouncing the Super League as the “ultimate betrayal”.

Even the players spoke out, with Liverpool’s captain, Jordan Henderson tweeting, “We don’t like it and we don’t want it to happen. This is our collective position.”

Or check out this Arsenal fan unleashing a tirade against the European Super League:

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Now his club has issued an apology and acknowledged it made a mistake.

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Football’s governing body, FIFA, was initially cautious, but overnight issued a statement to say it can only “strongly disapprove the creation of a super league which is a closed shop”.

Let’s face it, the European Super League was always doomed to fail.

The breakaway clubs would have been banished from all competitions — domestic and international — and instead, played a much smaller number of games reducing the TV eyeballs they now get from playing 50-odd games a year.

The domestic competitions would have been nothing without the biggest clubs in the world.

Ditto the EUFA Champions and Europa leagues, which would lose 12 of its biggest drawcards.

International football would have been severely diminished without the biggest stars of the game.

A young male holds up a sign that reaeds "MONEY CAN'T BUY FANS".
Fans band together in protest of the European Super League.(

AP: Frank Augstein

)

What were they thinking?

Super League has responded, saying it still thinks things need to change but that “given the current circumstances, we shall reconsider the most appropriate steps to reshape the project”.

But the damage is done.

It’s impossible to imagine that this competition can now proceed without any English sides and given the untold PR damage to all 12 clubs.

One of the Italian teams, Inter Milan, is on the precipice of winning Serie A, but supporters have been saying that the joy has been sucked out of that impending triumph by the Super League disaster.

The resignations have begun, starting with Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who was one of the instigators of the breakaway competition.

Already there are calls for the owners of the six Premier League Clubs to step down.

A crowd of football fans shout as Petr Cech wears a face mask and pleads for peace
Chaos in London as fans fight to stop the breakaway competition.(

AP: Matt Dunham

)

At the very least those owners have to build a bridge to the supporters — they have to regain trust, but it may be too late.

Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher has said their position is now untenable.

It’s over almost as soon as it began.

The one ironic silver lining out of what has been a complete disaster is that the Super League proposal has brought all football fans together.

By threatening to rip the game apart, the Super League instead has galvanised the millions of supporters who have made the game what it is.

Football in England is built on the supporters who cram the terraces every week, rain, hail or shine.

Normally they are divided along fiercely territorial lines.

But for once, they have spoken as one.


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