Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer
Gary Neville claimed clubs should be relegated, Jamie Carragher called Liverpool an “embarrassment” and UK prime minister Boris Johnson demanded answers as plans for a new European Super League came to light.
Reports emerged on Sunday that the Premier League’s so-called ‘big six’ of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham intended to join a rebel competition.
Those plans were confirmed that evening, with AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid joining as founding clubs with three more clubs expected to follow before the inaugural season.
The backlash has been both fierce and prompt, with Liverpool great Carragher taking aim at his former club on Twitter after they confirmed their plans.
— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) April 18, 2021
“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.”
UEFA, the English Football Association, the Premier League, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), LaLiga, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and Lega Serie A have today released a statement.
Read it in full here: 👇
— UEFA (@UEFA) April 18, 2021
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?”
Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action.
They would strike at the heart of the domestic game, and will concern fans across the country. (1/2)
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) April 18, 2021
The news has led to responses from UK politicians as well as those within football, including Mr Johnson.
“Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action,” he wrote on Twitter before Sunday evening’s confirmation.
“They would strike at the heart of the domestic game, and will concern fans across the country.
“The clubs involved must answer to their fans and the wider footballing community before taking any further steps.”
UK culture secretary Oliver Dowden also commented on the matter, saying any decisions should involve fans.
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. (3/3)
— Oliver Dowden (@OliverDowden) April 18, 2021
“Football supporters are the heartbeat of our national sport and any major decisions made should have their backing,” he said in a statement.
“With many fans, we are concerned that this plan could create a closed shop at the very top of our national game. Sustainability, integrity and fair competition are absolutely paramount and anything that undermines this is deeply troubling and damaging for football.
“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.”
Damian Collins MP, the former chair of the UK's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee said: “The idea of creating a closed franchise league of elite football clubs must be stopped.
“This is a self-serving proposal by a small number of clubs seeking to maximise their revenues from the global audience of football, and to the detriment of everyone else.”