The controversial European Super League has been "suspended" because half their founding members have withdrawn — just two days after the league's inception was announced

By Glenn Garner
April 21, 2021 05:01 PM
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European football has been shaken by the announcement that the new European Super League (ESL) is "suspended," just two days after the league's inception was announced.

A dozen of the top football clubs, including the Premier League's "Big Six," were prepared to break off from UEFA competitions, announcing the formation of ESL on Sunday. But as of Tuesday, nearly all of the founding clubs released statements that they were withdrawing from the competition, reports ESPN.

ESL has received a flood of backlash, as many see the effort as elitist and only benefitting the super-rich clubs, even drawing comparisons to Brexit. The move also threatens UEFA's new "Swiss model" format, which was part of the reason for the Super League's inception.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote on Twitter that the new league would be "damaging for football." Prince William even chimed in, writing, "It is now really important that we use this moment to secure the future health of the game at all levels."

Here are five important things to know about the sudden rise and fall of the European Super League:

1. The European Super League Announced Its Formation on Sunday

Football fans were shocked at the news that 12 top clubs were joining the ESL as founding members, including Italian clubs Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan, Spain's Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, as well as England's Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham.

The league sought to fill three additional spots, after Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain reportedly distanced themselves from the breakaway. They also left five spots open for clubs who qualified via UEFA competitions and domestic leagues.

The 15 founding clubs were offered €3.5 billion to be split among them, intended to offset losses sustained during the COVID-19 pandemic and invest in infrastructure plans. There were also plans to branch out into a women's league.

With the news of the formation of the new league, Super League cofounder and Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli resigned from both UEFA and the European Club Association. He served as chairman for the latter, representing 246 clubs, many of which would be negatively impacted by the new league.

2. The New League Was Met with Backlash from Other Football Professionals and Fans

Along with the English Football Association, the Premier League, the Royal Spanish Football Federation, La Liga, the Italian Football Federation and Serie A, the UEFA condemned the breakaway effort, according to The Athletic.

The groups threatened sanctions and legal actions against clubs that went through with joining the new league. The Premier League also noted that their "Big Six" clubs cannot enter new competitions without Premier League approval.

European Super League After Fans Protest
A fan with an anti-European Super League slogan drawn on the back of his Chelsea shirt with yellow tape on April 20, 2021 in London

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, who is also godfather to Agnelli's daughter, described him and Manchester United's executive chairman Ed Woodward as "snakes" and "liars." FIFA said in a statement that it "can only express its disapproval to a 'closed European breakaway league' outside of the international football structures."

Several major broadcasters have threatened legal action as well, as the arrangement devalues domestic leagues for which they have preexisting contracts.

The fans have also made their opinions known, protesting in droves outside Monday's match between Liverpool and Leeds United, as well as at Tuesday's match between Chelsea and Brighton.

3. The UEFA Was Scheduled to Implement a New Format for Its Champions League on Monday

The ESL's announcement came just one day before the UEFA was scheduled to sign off on a revamped format for its flagship Champions League. The plan would do away with their 32-team group stage, implementing a 36-team "Swiss model" league, which would go into effect in 2024.

The top clubs reportedly wanted more control over the Champions League's broadcast and commercial deals. The Super League's statement said that the clubs were opposed to the "Swiss model" format the UEFA was preparing to implement.

By breaking off from the UEFA, the richest clubs could create their own competition with their choice of broadcast/streaming partners. Their move was similar to what happened in 1992, when the Premier League was created.

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The "rebel clubs" released their statement just two days after they voted to approve the Champions League reforms on Friday.

4. The concept of the Super League began in 2009 with Real Madrid president Florentino Perez

The Super League's statement said Real Madrid president Florentino Perez would be the league's chairman. His club is one of the ESL's biggest driving forces, along with Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.

"We have to agree to a new European Super League which guarantees that the best always play the best — something that does not happen in the Champions League," Perez said in 2009, according to The Athletic.

Manchester United's Joel Glazer and Juventus' Agnelli would serve as vice presidents in the ESL. A source told The Athletic that the American Glazer family want to transition English football to a more American sports model.

5. The Super League was "suspended" on Tuesday after most of the founding clubs withdrew

Six of the 12 founding clubs released statements Tuesday that they were withdrawing from the European Super League. Four more are expected to follow suit. The only remaining clubs are Juventus and Real Madrid.

European Super League After Fans Protest
Fans gather to protest the introduction of the European Super League on April 20, 2021 in London

Florentino has said football clubs would be "dead" without the new league's intervention. He was scheduled to appear Tuesday on a Spanish radio station to further his case, but he did not show up for that appearance, and he's expected to make an appearance Wednesday evening instead.

It is expected that the Champions League and the UEFA will welcome back the rebel clubs, as their success depends on each other.