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The repercussions of the collapsed European Super League project rumbled on as the Premier League’s ‘big six’ found themselves engulfed in protests and fresh speculation.
Around 8,000 spectators, among them 2,000 each from Manchester City and Tottenham, were allowed to attended Sunday’s Carabao Cup final, and some took the opportunity to express their discontent.
Fans wore scarves bearing the slogan ‘Football is for the fans’ and one banner, denouncing the doomed ESL plan, read – ‘Fans, football, owners, IN THAT ORDER’.
Thousands of Manchester United supporters made their feelings over the club’s involvement in the proposed competition abundantly clear when they gathered outside Old Trafford on Saturday and there was fresh condemnation ahead of their game at Leeds 24 hours later, while fewer, but equally angry, Liverpool fans demonstrated ahead of their club’s 1-1 draw with Newcastle.
Their action came after counterparts at Chelsea and Arsenal had left the respective hierarchies at Stamford Bridge and the Emirates Stadium in little doubt as to their feelings over the ESL plan, which rocked European football last week before it fell apart amid a chorus of disapproval.
Off the pitch too, the future ownership of some of the clubs who initially signed up to take part and then stepped away as the resulting furore unfolded was a topic of intense debate.
One report suggested Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group had rejected a £3bn bid for the club before the ESL announcement, and said prospective buyers from the Middle East were now waiting to see if the events of the last week had done anything to alter that stance.
Another claimed the Glazer family, who control United, will not countenance a sale despite the tide of criticism that has come their way.
A third credited Spotify CEO Daniel Ek with a genuine interest in holding talks with Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke’s Kroenke Sports and Entertainment group over a possible buy-out.
The Swedish billionaire had set the rumour machine going on Friday when he tweeted: “As a kid growing up, I’ve cheered for @Arsenal as long as I can remember. If KSE would like to sell Arsenal I’d be happy to throw my hat in the ring.”
Even apologies from United co-chairman Joel Glazer and Liverpool’s principal owner John W Henry did little to quell the sense of betrayal felt by supporters of their clubs.
On Sunday afternoon, a banner was flown above Elland Road, where United drew 0-0 with Leeds in the Premier League, carrying the message: “2bn stolen, Glazers out”, while outside the stadium, a Leeds supporter displayed two flags suggesting in no uncertain terms that Red Devils supporters had been “conned”.
The Glazers had earlier borne the brunt of the protest at Old Trafford, where executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward announced his decision to step down from his role at the end of the year on Tuesday evening with claims that the move was unconnected to the ESL debacle prompting raised eyebrows.
One banner included the words “Glazers”, “Greedy” and “Selfish” and the phrase “RIP MUFC”, while another proclaimed “Glazers out” and, with a red line drawn through it, “Woodward out”.
At Anfield, where manager Jurgen Klopp and his players, led by skipper Jordan Henderson, had been vociferous in their opposition to the proposal, the reaction was more muted, but the disdain for owners FSG just as clear.
A message on one flag read: “We won’t forget, we won’t forgive, FSG out”.