'Give the title to Burnley and relegate Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal' Gary Neville's furious reaction to the European Super League plan

Fans, former players and football's world governing body have reacted angrily to plans for a breakaway European league.

Monday, 19th April 2021, 7:39 am
Updated Monday, 19th April 2021, 7:52 am

Six English clubs have agreed to join the controversial European Super League which Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer hailed as a "new chapter".

The bombshell plan, announced on Sunday, saw United join Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham and six other European clubs in creating a rival competition to the Champions League.

It is anticipated three more clubs will join the breakaway group as founding members with the new competition, which will begin "as soon as practicable" to eventually feature 20 teams.

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Gary Neville

After the plans emerged on Sunday afternoon condemnation was almost instant throughout the game, before the clubs released statements just before midnight.

In announcing the news, Glazer, also vice-chairman of the Super League, said: "By bringing together the world's greatest clubs and players to play each other throughout the season, the Super League will open a new chapter for European football, ensuring world-class competition and facilities, and increased financial support for the wider football pyramid."

Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan are the other six clubs, with Bayern Munich and Paris St Germain missing from the list.

A joint statement from the clubs read: "Twelve of Europe's leading football clubs have today come together to announce they have agreed to establish a new midweek competition, the Super League, governed by its founding clubs.

"AC Milan, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur have all joined as founding clubs.

"It is anticipated that a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season, which is intended to commence as soon as practicable."

Gary Neville claimed clubs should be relegated, Jamie Carragher called Liverpool an "embarrassment" and Prime Minister Boris Johnson demanded answers as plans for a new European Super League came to light.

Liverpool great Carragher taking aim at his former club on Twitter after they confirmed their plans.

"What an embarrassment we've become @LFC," he said. "Think of all the people who have come before us at this club who would be equally embarrassed as well. #SuperLeague."

Former Arsenal and City defender Bacary Sagna said: "Oooook .. i think i will stop watching football..cause the football i know is not football anymore."

Ex-City player Micah Richards said the idea was "an absolute disgrace" earlier in the day and former United captain Roy Keane said the move "comes down to money, greed".

Neville said he was appalled by the developments, which he feels are motivated by greed.

"I am a Manchester United fan and have been for 40 years but I am disgusted, absolutely disgusted," the former England and United defender told Sky Sports.

"It is an absolute disgrace. Honestly, we have to wrestle back power in this country from the clubs at the top of this league, and that includes my club.

"The motivation is greed. Deduct them all points tomorrow, put them at the bottom of the league and take the money off them. Seriously, you have got to stamp on this.

"It is criminal. It is a criminal act against football fans in this country. Deduct points, deduct money and punish them.

"Enough is enough. There isn't a football fan in this country that won't be seething listening to this conversation and these announcements. This is disowning-your-own-club stuff, this.

"Let them break away but punish them straight away. If they announce a letter of intent has been signed, those six clubs, they should be punished heavily. Massive fines, points deductions, take the titles off them.

"Give the title to Burnley, let Fulham stay up. Relegate Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal. Those three clubs, with their history in this country, are the ones that should suffer the most.

"The history and traditions that run through those three clubs is absolutely enormous and I value it, but they leave a lot to be desired at this moment in time."

Neville also feels the timing is crass, coming amid a pandemic and just ahead of an anticipated announcement from European governing body UEFA on Monday detailing changes to the format of the Champions League.

Neville said: "Seriously, in the midst of a pandemic, an economic crisis, football clubs at National League level going bust, furloughing players, clubs on the edge in League One and Two, and this lot are having Zoom calls about breaking away and basically creating more greed? Joke.

"I'd like to think Manchester United and Liverpool would stand there in the face of this and say something is not right here.

"Let's collaborate with the game to try to get a better competition, a better Champions League. I'm not against the modernisation of competitions but this is a grab.

"The timing is hideous. What world are these people living in to think they can bring this forward at this moment in time?"

The timing of this statement is incendiary coming ahead of an anticipated announcement from UEFA confirming changes to the Champions League format on Monday.

The European governing body is expected to approve an increase from 32 to 36 teams from 2024 with the existing structure of eight groups of four replaced by one league. The format, known as the 'Swiss model', would see all teams play 10 games in the first stage with opponents determined by a seeding system.

The statement from the 12 clubs makes clear they do not believe these proposed changes go far enough.

It added: "The formation of the Super League comes at a time when the global pandemic has accelerated the instability in the existing European football economic model.

"Further, for a number of years, the founding clubs have had the objective of improving the quality and intensity of existing European competitions throughout each season, and of creating a format for top clubs and players to compete on a regular basis.

"The pandemic has shown that a strategic vision and a sustainable commercial approach are required to enhance value and support for the benefit of the entire European football pyramid.

"In recent months extensive dialogue has taken place with football stakeholders regarding the future format of European competitions.

"The founding clubs believe the solutions proposed following these talks do not solve fundamental issues, including the need to provide higher-quality matches and additional financial resources for the overall football pyramid."

Real Madrid's Florentino Perez will chair the Super League, He said: "We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world.

Football is the only global sport in the world with more than four billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to their desires."

It is proposed the new competition will be played in midweek with the eventual 15 founding members being joined by five qualifiers. It will be played initially in two groups of 10 with an eight-team knockout stage.

The organisers claim it will generate more money than the Champions League and that will result in a greater distribution of revenue throughout the game.

The statement added: "The new annual tournament will provide significantly greater economic growth and support for European football via a long-term commitment to uncapped solidarity payments which will grow in line with league revenues.

"These solidarity payments will be substantially higher than those generated by the current European competition and are expected to be in excess of E10billion during the course of the initial commitment period of the clubs."

News of the breakaway competition leaked out before it was officially announced and had already provoked a fierce backlash from UEFA and various national leagues and associations.

They pointed out the competition was unsanctioned and clubs and players risked bans by being involved.

World governing body FIFA also issued a strong condemnation after the announcement was made and called for further discussions.

The statement read: "In our view, and in accordance with our statutes, any football competition, whether national, regional or global, should always reflect the core principles of solidarity, inclusivity, integrity and equitable financial distribution.

"Moreover, the governing bodies of football should employ all lawful, sporting and diplomatic means to ensure this remains the case.

"Against this background, FIFA can only express its disapproval to a 'closed European breakaway league' outside of the international football structures and not respecting the aforementioned principles."

It went on to call for unity and "all parties involved in heated discussions to engage in calm, constructive and balanced dialogue for the good of the game".

UEFA, along with the Football Associations of England, Spain and Italy, plus the Premier League, LaLiga and Serie A, said they would use all available means to stop the "cynical project".

A joint statement, issued before the later Super League announcement, read: "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.

"We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way.

"As previously announced by FIFA and the six federations, the clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams.

"We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this. We call on all lovers of football, supporters and politicians, to join us in fighting against such a project if it were to be announced.

"This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough."

In a solo statement, the FA added the plan was "damaging to English and European football at all levels" and would "attack the principles of open competition and sporting merit which are fundamental to competitive sport". The Premier League also warned it would have a "deeply damaging impact".