The proposal of a European Super League - a mid-week competition to enhance the quality and intensity of existing European competitions - divided the football community over the last three days.
The announcement of the breakaway European competition came at a time when the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) planned to put forward their plans for a 36-team tournament.
However, backlash from fans and former players put the 12 founding clubs - namely Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool - on the edge to make a U-turn on their initial participation.
The drama - which spanned for over three days - was covered extensively, sparked outrage on social media among fans and observers, and also led to a few key developments at the board level at some of the clubs.
Here’s how the entire saga ensued.
Sunday, April 18
England’s ‘Big Six’ reportedly sign up for European Super League
A report by The Times’ Martyn Ziegler initially mentioned that five Premier League clubs - Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur - have signed up for the European Super League.
Later in the day, Manchester City are also confirmed to come onboard the project.
The rumours of the English clubs’ participation were brought up during the Manchester United vs Burnley game on Sunday.
Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus join the bandwagon
La Liga trio Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona and Serie A giants AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus were reported to join the competition. Additionally, it was leaked that there would be 15 founding clubs and an imminent announcement would be made later in the day.
Gary Neville slams Manchester United and Liverpool’s involvement
Former England defender Gary Neville, now a TV Pundit for Sky Sports, voiced his dissent over the ‘Big Six’ participating in the European Super League.
"This is disowning your own club stuff." 🚮@GNev2 hits out at the six clubs linked with a Super League breakaway and says they should be 'punished heavily' by the Premier League and English governing bodies. pic.twitter.com/Sy0gM6qdgm— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) April 18, 2021
The Manchester United legend also took a swipe at the club owners of Liverpool and his former club. “[The club owners] are bottle merchants. You never hear from these owners. In the middle of a pandemic… these lot are having Zoom calls about creating greed? Being a big club is not just about a global fanbase, it’s about doing the right thing.”
European Super League announcement goes official
Twelve of the 15 founding clubs jointly come out with a press release to establish the new mid-week competition, the European Super League.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is named as head chairman of the project, with Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli and Manchester United co-owner Joel Glazer initially appointed as his vice-chairpersons.
The 20-team competition would have 15 teams serving as the founding clubs, with the remaining teams decided via a qualifying mechanism based on the achievements in the previous season.
UEFA, Premier League react immediately, and angrily!
Following the announcement of the Super League, the Premier League came out with a statement condemning the proposal while stating the breakaway league attacks the principle of open competition at the domestic and European level.
UEFA, together with the football associations from England, Italy and Spain, jointly announced their intention to put a stop to the ‘cynical’ project.
Monday, April 19
UEFA states breakaway clubs will be banned
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin asserts that clubs and players involved in the proposed breakaway Super League could be banned "as soon as possible" from all of its competitions and the FIFA World Cup.
"We're still assessing with our legal team but we will take all the sanctions that we can and we will inform you as soon we can," Ceferin said. "My opinion is that as soon as possible they have to be banned from all our competitions and the players from all our competitions."
‘Created by the poor, stolen by the rich’ - Fans protests
Leeds fans at elland road yesterday throwing full beer bottles and cans at the Liverpool coach in protest of the European super league #NoToEuropeanSuperLeague #NoToSuperLeague #europeansuperleague #FSGOut #SayNoToTheSuperLeague #SayNoToESL #lufc #LEELIV pic.twitter.com/K6OWAB3KT3— 🟨🟥 (@RAYECER) April 20, 2021
Traffic brought to a standstill outside Stamford Bridge as Chelsea fans voice their disapproval at the club's plans to join the European Super League #chelsea #SuperLeague #football pic.twitter.com/4hExSnJFyG— Nick McAvaney (@nick_mcavaney) April 20, 2021
Chelsea fans' despair turned to jubilation on Tuesday evening after their club formally announced it was withdrawing from the so-called European Super League as they protested outside Stamford Bridge in west London. Hundreds of fans descended on the stadium before Chelsea took pic.twitter.com/sZNwF0SNQl— (worldwide news of infotainment) (@NewsOfInfoten) April 21, 2021
Chelsea fans have blocked the team bus from entering the stadium. Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Barcelona and Atletico planning to withdraw from the European Super League. Bayern Munich and Borrusia Dortmund said they will NOT join the European Super League. pic.twitter.com/SOizNtrMCz— Muchiri Kibicho (@KibichoMuchiri) April 20, 2021
Bayern, PSG oppose Super League formation
Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain issued statements saying that they would not join the European Super League. Going further, the clubs reaffirmed their intentions to contribute to the development of the UEFA Champions League.
Agnelli, Woodward resign from ECA posts
Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli, described as a snake and a liar by UEFA President Ceferin, resigns from his post as chairman of the European Club Association.
Apart from Agnelli, Manchester United CEO Ed Woodward stepped down from his role in the UEFA's Professional Football Strategy Council, where he was a European Club Association representative.
Herrera, De Bruyne take shots
For the fans ❤️✊🏻 pic.twitter.com/TJTqGA6SKL— Aymeric Laporte (@Laporte) April 20, 2021
Kids grow up dreaming to win the World Cup and the Champions League - not any Super League. The enjoyment of big games is that they only happen once or twice a year, not every week. Really hard to understand for all football fans out there...⚽💔— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) April 19, 2021
Perez: Super League to make European games more ‘competitive’
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez tried to douse the fire with a statement.
“When you have no income, only that from television, you understand that the solution is to have more competitive games, the most attractive you can have in the world,” Perez reasoned. “We have decided that in the week, instead of the Champions League, we can have a Super League with more games.”
Tuesday, April 20
Everton kick off Premier League clubs’ response to Super League
Everton became the first of the “other 14” Premier League clubs to release a statement condemning the Super League clubs. “This preposterous arrogance is not wanted anywhere in football outside of the clubs that have drafted this plan,” it said. “On behalf of everyone associated with Everton, we respectfully ask that the proposals are immediately withdrawn.”
Wolves take a funny dig at the ‘Big Six’
Wolverhampton Wanderers, currently 12th on the Premier League table, announced themselves as winners of the 2018/19 edition where they had registered a seventh-place finish.
Wolves have declared themselves Premier League champions for 2018-19 after they finished seventh behind the 'big six' Super League clubs 😅🏆 pic.twitter.com/qzabwi2nJ7— Goal (@goal) April 20, 2021
Pep Guardiola hits back at City’s plan to join Super League
Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola criticised his employers’ intention to join the controversial European Super League, stating “it is not a sport” if teams are guaranteed to play in it each season.
“It is not a sport where success is already guaranteed or it is not a sport when it doesn’t matter where you lose,” the Spaniard said.
Manchester City, Chelsea drop out
Manchester City become the first of 15 founding clubs to announce that they have begun procedures to withdraw from the plan to create a European Super League.
Closely behind the Blue side of Manchester, Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea also made clear of their intention to drop out of the Super League. This news went well for the Blues fans, who stormed outside Stamford Bridge to voice their dissent.
The scene at Stamford Bridge as it’s reported Chelsea preparing to withdraw pic.twitter.com/meZpntKiBc— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) April 20, 2021
Ed Woodward resigns as Man Utd CEO, club withdraw from ESL
Ed Woodward resigned from his position as Manchester United CEO but would continue his duties until the end of the year.
It was well-received by the Old Trafford faithful, who for long have voiced their plea to see the former JP Morgan employee stand down from his post.
The second big announcement was Red Devils’ departure from the project.
Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham also follow suit
Like their Premier League rivals, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur also take to social media to announce their disassociation from the Super League. This meant that the ‘Big Six’ will no longer be part of the controversial project and effectively put the tournament - reportedly set to start in August 2021 - out of commission.
Real Madrid, Barca and Juve stay mum
Atletico Madrid and Milan clubs - Inter and AC Milan - become the latest teams to withdraw their participation from the European Super League. This means only three teams remain who have yet to pull out of the project - Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Juventus.
European Super League vice-chairman Agnelli stated that the breakaway tournament can no longer go ahead but has no regrets of the way attempts were made to change the current standards of European football.
European Super League statement: “Given the current circumstances, we shall reconsider the most appropriate steps to reshape the project, always having in mind our goals of offering fans the best experience possible while enhancing solidarity payments for the entire football community.”
Featured photo: AFP / Justin Tallis