UEFA president says European Super League clubs have made ‘huge mistake’

Jamie Gardner, PA Chief Sports Reporter, and PA staff
·5-min read

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin urged England’s so called ‘Big Six’ to “come to their senses” as Boris Johnson told the football authorities that no action by the Government “is off the table” in seeking to stop the Super League.

The six are within a group of 12 European heavyweights who are founder members of the new competition, threatening to fundamentally alter the shape of football on the continent.

They have faced criticism from within the Premier League, with Everton and Brighton speaking out on Tuesday against the plans. The other 14 English top-flight sides are meeting to discuss a way forward following the weekend’s developments.

There are reports that some executives at the breakaway clubs are getting cold feet after 48 hours of almost unanimous criticism, and Ceferin warned: “Gentlemen, you made a huge mistake.

“What matters is that there is still time to change your mind. Everyone makes mistakes.

“Come to your senses, not out of love for football, because I imagine some of you don’t have much of that, but out of respect for those who bleed themselves dry so that they can go to the stadium to support the team and want the dream to be kept alive.”

Ceferin was addressing the 45th UEFA Congress in Montreux, and was preceded on the stage by FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

He did not explicitly threaten to ban players at European Super League clubs from future World Cups, but did say to the clubs involved: “If some elect to go their own way then they must live with the consequences of their choice. They are responsible for their choice.

“Concretely, this means either you’re in or you’re out. You cannot be half in or half out.”

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The manager of one of the breakaway clubs, Pep Guardiola of Manchester City, was questioned about the Super League proposals in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

Asked about the concept of a competition in which there is no promotion or relegation, Guardiola said: “It is not a sport where the relation between effort and success does not exist.

“It is not a sport where success is already guaranteed, it is not a sport where it doesn’t matter when you lose.”

The Super League will feature 15 ‘founder’ members who cannot be relegated, who would be joined annually by five other clubs.

Prime Minister Johnson held a meeting with the representatives from the Football Association, Premier League and football fan groups on Tuesday to discuss the proposed breakaway competition.

Downing Street said that the Prime Minister reiterated his “unwavering support” for their attempts to prevent the breakaway competition.

A No 10 statement said: “The Prime Minister confirmed the Government will not stand by while a small handful of owners create a closed shop.

“He was clear that no action is off the table and the Government is exploring every possibility, including legislative options, to ensure these proposals are stopped.”

Downing Street has not ruled out stopping players of clubs involved in the breakaway Super League getting work visas or withdrawing police funding for match days.

Boris Johnson met football authorities on Tuesday morning
Boris Johnson met football authorities on Tuesday morning (House of Commons)

Asked about the suggestions, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “All these options are on the table at the moment.

“We will be working both to see what options are available to Government and we will be speaking direct, as the Prime Minister has done this morning with the Premier League, FA and others to see what collective action might be possible here.”

Downing Street said it would welcome any club stepping back from the proposal to form a breakaway European Super League.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I think we’re fairly unequivocal that we don’t want this to go ahead in the current form, so we would welcome any club that wants to step back from this approach but I think, as far as I’m aware, that’s speculation at this stage.”

Downing Street also did not rule out speaking to ministers in Spain and Italy to co-ordinate efforts to prevent the league going ahead as planned.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We are keen to speak to everyone involved in this, from other countries to the Premier League and others.”

UEFA is taking legal advice on the sanctions it might be able to impose, from expelling clubs to banning players from international competition including Euro 2020.

In an interview with Spanish TV, however, European Super League chairman Florentino Perez was vehement that expulsion from the Champions League would not happen.

“It will not happen, the law protects us,” he told El Chiringuito. “We will not get into legal issues. It is impossible.”

UEFA’s head of women’s football, Nadine Kessler, warned of the damage the creation of a European Super League would do to the female game.

A plane with a ‘Say No To Super League’ banner flies over Elland Road on Monday
A plane with a ‘Say No To Super League’ banner flies over Elland Road on Monday (Zac Goodwin/PA)

“All the great steps made in recent years… will have less of a chance of becoming a reality,” she said.

A club statement from Everton was scathing about the Super League signatories.

“The backlash is understandable and deserved – and has to be listened to,” it read.

“This preposterous arrogance is not wanted anywhere in football outside of the clubs that have drafted this plan.

“On behalf of everyone associated with Everton, we respectfully ask that the proposals are immediately withdrawn and that the private meetings and subversive practises that have brought our beautiful game to possibly its lowest ever position in terms of trust end now.”