Leeds CEO Angus Kinnear has hit out at the “sporting cartel” of 12 clubs who tried to form a European Super League, warning the battle may have been won but “the war needs to be relentlessly and vigorously fought.”
Premier League clubs Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham announced their intention to establish a new midweek European competition to rival the Champions League last Sunday.
These English teams were joined by six other founding clubs: La Liga’s Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, and Serie A’s Juventus, AC Milan and Inter.
The proposals drew widespread condemnation and fan protests which eventually led to the project’s collapse but intense anger and deep divisions remain across the footballing world.
And while Kinnear used his programme notes ahead of his side’s Premier League clash with Manchester United to praise the unity shown against the proposals, he described the ESL as a “deeply cynical and clandestine plot” amidst the turmoil of a global pandemic.
“Whether the collective intent was a genuine move to breakaway or the act of playground bullies seeking negotiating leverage at European and domestic level by threatening to take their ball home is irrelevant,” Kinnear wrote.
“The result was a betrayal of every true football supporter. However, this astonishing ingordigiouness [extreme greed] has been the unexpected catalyst of creating a furious unity across nations, leagues, players, owners and fans.
Kinnear went on to praise England’s footballing pyramid, citing 29 clubs who had competed in European competition, and 37 to have featured in League One, amongst the 49 past-and-present Premier League members, exemplifying clubs should not only have the right to dream but that the ‘Big Six’ needed owners who also believe in the league structure.
“These teams and supporters deserve custodians who share the belief in the football pyramid and the abhorrence of the prospect of pulling up the drawbridge to create a sporting cartel,” Kinnear added.
“The Premier League and European qualification has never been a closed shop.
“Hopefully the speed in which the initiative was quashed has helped everyone in the game to appreciate that while there will always be differing opinions on the validity of the pursuit of wealth within football, we are unified in our belief that this can never be done at the expense of the spirit of competition in sport, victory is nothing without the spectre of defeat.”
Kinnear finished with the warning: “It would be naive to believe the threat has been extinguished forever and we still face European qualification that will be partially based on historical performance as opposed to in season merit and a Premier League where some shareholders still want to abolish the enshrined democratic principle of “one club, one vote”.
“This week’s battle against elitism may have been won but the war needs to be relentlessly and vigorously fought.”
Manchester United fan groups organised a plane banner reading “2bn stolen #GlazersOut” in protest against the Glazer family’s ownership, which flew over Elland Road before Sunday’s Premier League game against Leeds.
The banner follows protests against the Glazer family’s ownership on Saturday, where thousands of fans assembled by the Trinity Statue, setting off flares, hanging banners and scarves outside Old Trafford, with many wearing the green and gold colours synonymous with fan protests against the Glazers which have occurred since the American family acquired the club back in 2005.
The anger from the fans comes after a tumultuous week when United were one of the founding members – along with five other English clubs – of the proposed European Super League.
Sky Sports News reporter Kaveh Solhekol
There was a frantic race to be first to quit the European Super League (ESL) on Tuesday.
Manchester City were the first club to have serious doubts, quickly followed by Chelsea. There was a feeling that there was a small reputational benefit to be gained from being first to quit.
Chelsea were the first club to let it be known that they were leaving just before 7pm. At the same time, Man City were telling the ESL they were withdrawing and that was confirmed at 7.20pm. By then, the whole project was doomed.
The other clubs knew it was all over when Chelsea and City quit and during a series of phone calls it was agreed that Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham would announce they were leaving at 11pm.
There is a lot of anger and recrimination inside the breakaway clubs and the majority of it is directed at the small group of owners and chief executives who tried to push this through. There are a lot of unhappy managers and a lot of unhappy players.
I’ve been told that it will be very difficult for some of the people who were behind this to go into meetings with the other 14 Premier League clubs because the trust has gone. Apologies and statements aren’t going to be enough.