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Controversial Super League plan ‘collapses’ as 10 clubs drop out

MADRID, April 21, (AP): Atlético Madrid, Inter Milan, AC Milan and Juventus all dropped out of the Super League on Wednesday, leaving the new competition essentially extinct before it even started. Only Spanish clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona are still officially involved. The moves by Atlético, Inter, AC Milan and Juventus came a day after the six Premier League clubs involved in the project gave up on the controversial breakaway competition. English clubs Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham deserted the plans for the largely-closed competition amid an escalating backlash from their supporters and warnings from the government that legislation could be introduced to thwart them. The Super League project was overseen by Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez, who promoted it as a way to “save soccer” and the clubs struggling financially amid the coronavirus pandemic.

helsea fans protest outside Stamford Bridge stadium in London, against Chelsea’s decision to be included amongst the clubs attempting to form a new European Super League, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. Reaction to the proposals from 12 clubs to rip up European soccer by forming a breakaway Super League has ranged from anger and condemnation to humor and sarcasm. (AP)

UEFA threatened to ban players from the participating teams from playing in this year’s European Championship and next year’s World Cup. But a Madrid court later issued a preliminary ruling stopping UEFA, FIFA and its members from acting against the creation of the new league. AC Milan signaled it was leaving a few hours after Atlético and Inter Milan made their announcements. “The voices and the concerns of fans around the world have clearly been expressed about the Super League, and AC Milan must be sensitive to the voice of those who love this wonderful sport,” the Italian club said. Juventus followed moments later, but didn’t completely abandon plans for a future Super League.

“While Juventus remains convinced of the soundness of the project’s sport, commercial and legal premises, it believes that at present there are limited chances that the project be completed in the form originally conceived,” the club said. “Juventus remains committed to pursuing the creation of longterm value for the Company and the entire football industry.” Atlético said the decision was made after its board of directors met on Wednesday. The Spanish club said it “decided to formally communicate the Super League and the rest of the founding clubs its decision not to formalize its participation in the project.” Atlético said the “circumstances” that allowed it to join the new league on Monday “no longer existed today.” “For the club, harmony is essential for everyone involved in the (Atlético) family, especially our fans,” it said.

“The first team squad and its coach showed satisfaction with the club’s decision, understanding that sporting merits must prevail over any other criteria.” Inter said the club was committed to delivering the best soccer experience for fans because “innovation and inclusion have been part of our DNA since our foundation.” “Our commitment with all stakeholders to improve the football industry will never change,” the Italian club said. “Inter believe that football, like any sector of activity, must have an interest in constantly improving its competitions in order to continue to excite fans of all ages all over the world, within a framework of financial sustainability.” After the aborted attempt to form a European Super League, Liverpool owner John Henry attempted to regain the trust of fans with an apology video on Wednesday.

The same public contrition was yet to come from all six of the Premier League clubs who faced two days of fury from their supporters for deciding – briefl y – to abandon the UEFA system to join a largely closed breakaway European competition. On a frenzied night of statements, Liverpool withdrew on Tuesday from the 12-team project along with the other five English rebel clubs, imploding the planned split from the existing Champions League. “Over these 48 hours you were very clear that it would not stand,” Henry told supporters. “No one ever thought differently in England. We heard you. I heard you.” English club owners like Henry didn’t just fail to consult their supporters. Even players and coaching staff at the Premier League champions were left in the dark before the announcement on Sunday of the Super League.

Liverpool players publicly voiced their opposition in a wave of coordinated tweets on Tuesday night to intensify the pressure on Henry to keep the six-time European Cup winners within the longstanding, open competition. Henry directly apologized to manager Jürgen Klopp and the staff. “They were the most disrupted and unfairly so,” Henry said. “This is what hurts most.” The attempt at damage-limitation was familiar from Liverpool since the Fenway Sports Group bought the club in October 2010. Under Henry, the club has apologized for backing thenstriker Luis Suarez in a racism case, for hiking ticket prices and for trying to use state aid to pay staff during the pandemic.

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