European Super League: Uefa president accuses Manchester United’s Ed Woodward of being a ‘snake’

Lawrence Ostlere
·8-min read
<p>Breaking news</p> (PA)

Breaking news


Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin has accused Manchester United executive Ed Woodward of being a “snake” in a scathing attack on the European Super League.

United are one of the ringleaders in a plot among Europe’s major clubs to breakaway from Uefa’s Champions League and form a new Super League which would see the founding members rewarded with protected rights to play in the competition every year, effectively concentrating the sport’s power and money to a select few and undermining the notion of fair and open competition.

Speaking in a news conference on Monday, Ceferin read a prepared statement which denounced the Super League, saying: “I cannot stress more strongly at this moment Uefa and the footballing world stand united against the disgraceful, self-serving proposal.”

And when asked further questions, Ceferin began tearing into the major players behind the new Super League.

“If I start with Ed Woodward, he called me last Thursday evening saying he’s very satisfied with and fully supports the reforms and the only thing he want to talk about was FFP [Financial Fair Play], when obviously he had already signed something else.

“Andrea Agnelli [Juventus chairman] is the biggest disappointment of all, I’ve never seen a person that would lie so many times, so persistently as he did. It’s unbelievable. We didn’t know we had snakes so close to us. Now we know.”

On Monday, hours after the 12 Super League clubs announced their new project, Uefa approved its plans for a new Champions League format which would see teams increased from 32 to 36 and a minimum of 10 games per club to increase revenue – plans the Super League clubs evidently feel do not stretch far enough in assuring their future revenues.

Ceferin added: “These are so-called big clubs, it is clear that the big clubs of today were not always big clubs. Juventus were in Serie B, Man United before Sir Alex Ferguson was I don’t know where.

“These are so-called big clubs, it is clear that the big clubs of today were not always big clubs. Juventus were in Serie B, Man United before Sir Alex Ferguson was I don’t know where. Why are they creating this? Because they are not managed right [financially].

“I am happy this has happened, finally. Now you see who is who. You see who loves football, who is in football for the love of the game.”

Uefa and the Super League group are heading for a major legal confrontation which will have seismic consequences for the future of European football, and whether the game shifts towards an American model of protected franchises without fear of relegation and fewer incentives for promotion and qualification, or whether the game preserves its historic premise of fair and open competition.

Ceferin threatened to ban Super League players from international competitions like the World Cup, and to banish the 12 clubs from the Champions League. Uefa are consulting with lawyers to understand whether it is possible to ban players from Uefa tournaments, like Euro 2020 this summer.

He ended his explosive press conference saying: “How can you see all your fans protesting and you don’t care? You are full of money anyway, but you want more and more and more. I’ve had enough that football clubs are assets – they are part of our history.”

Ceferin also said Fifa president Gianni Infantino has told him that he will strongly condemn the Super League when he addresses the Uefa Congress on Tuesday.

Full statement by Uefa president

Today, Theo, Georgio and I [Uefa leadership] will outline Uefa's plans for the future of our club competitions. These are dynamic changes that will shape an exciting new format, based on a commitment to thrilling football, dramatic moments and, crucially, open competition.

We began this project to modernise the competitions in early 2019, guided by the principle that it should be an exercise in inclusive leadership. At the start of this process, driven by a desire to evolve the Uefa club competitions into something better than the spectacle we know today. With the unanimous support of the European Club Association, ECA, we consulted widely across the game.

Teams will always qualify and compete in our competitions on merit, not a closed shop run by a select few. That was our decision from the beginning, and any club and its fans should still have the dream of participating in the Champions League based on its results on the pitch. But before we bring you all the details, I must address the extraordinary situation that has developed on the eve of this announcement and during the night.

I cannot stress more strongly at this moment Uefa and the footballing world stand united against the disgraceful, self-serving proposal we have seen in the last 24 hours from a select few clubs in Europe that are fuelled purely by greed above all else. And not only football is united, all the society is united, governments are united, it's part of our culture, we are all united against this nonsense of a project.

We have the English FA, Spanish federation, Italian federation, Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, but also Fifa, all our 55 member associations unanimous in our opposition to these cynical plans, that are completely against what football should be. Our game has become the greatest sport in the world based on open competition, integrity and sporting merit, and we cannot allow and we will not allow that to change. Never, ever.

As previously announced by Fifa and the six federations, the players who will play in teams that might play in the closed league will be banned from playing in the World Cup and Euros, so they will not be able to represent their national teams at any matches, so we urge everyone from the millions of football lovers around the world, the world's media gathered on this call today, politicians and football's governing bodies to stand tall with us, as we do everything in our power to ensure this never ends up in fruition. I wholeheartedly believe - we all do - that the changes we announce now are exactly the required next step in football's evolution. They are exciting, and in their heart retain the values of the game we all love. We will also be introducing a new support structure, built on a revised financial model, that boosts revenues for participants and importantly sees solidarity payments increase as well, driving a positive impact across the European game right down to the grassroots.

And I want to emphasise today what many of the fans don't know. Uefa distributes close to 90% of all the revenues back to the game, not to the professionals only. We finance youth, we finance grass roots, we finance women's football, we have a foundation, a children's foundation, that has a great charity project, so whoever thinks super league is about money and Uefa is about money as well is not right. Super league is only about money, money of the dozen, I don't want to call them dirty dozen, but Uefa is about developing football, and about financing what should be financed, that our football, our culture survives, and some people don't understand it.

The reforms preserve the value and importance of the domestic game, by retaining the principle that domestic performance should be key to qualification, this should and will not ever change.

The European game is the greatest success of modern sport, and there's a reason why, because of the pyramid, because of its long history, we are constantly adopting the European competition to ensure it's more and more interesting, more and more modern, but the principles cannot change. Solidarity is something that stays forever. For some people solidarity doesn't exist. Unity doesn't exist. The only thing that exists is their pockets. Ultimately, we believe that these changes and the support structure we are implementing are protect what our sport is all about.

The new format preserves open competition in Europe, it recognises all values, the importance of domestic football and crucially the words leading elite club competitions remain the driving force that supports the entire structure of European football.

I would like to thank all the football family, meaning players, fans coaches, national associations, leagues and clubs as well. I would like to thank governments all around Europe, I would like to especially thank Prime Minister Johnson, President Macron, vice-president of European commission, Mr Schinas, president of European parliament Mr Sassoli, and all the other leaders around Europe who respect our fans, who respect our culture, who respect the values that are European values, not only football values.

By my opinion, this idea is a spit in the face of all football lovers, and our society as well, so we will not allow them to take it away from us.

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