#GlazersOut, #KroenkeOut, #AgnelliOut – the fan rebellions against Super League owners
The European Super League lasted barely 48 hours before disintegrating in an embarrassing mess, but while the idea was overwhelmingly condemned by everyone from players to fans to governing bodies, it did prove useful in uniting supporters against a common enemy.
Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham were the six Premier League clubs who signed up for the competition. The plan was for them to join Spanish trio Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, and Italian triplet Juventus, Milan and Inter in a 20-team competition to break away from UEFA.
Instead of a new dawn – one that was designed to “save football”, in the words of the embattled Florentino Perez, president of both Real Madrid and the ill-fated Super League – fans united against the plans to effectively lock down an elite of 15 teams who could not be relegated and who would be joined by a rotating group of five other clubs on an annual basis.
Here’s how the fans of each club responded.
Arsenal fan protests
Following Arsenal’s indication that they were to sign up for the Super League, fans quickly rallied to protest against the idea and, specifically, owner Stan Kroenke. The Gunners have struggled for relevance since Kroenke took over the running of the club and currently find themselves in the middle of the Premier League table.
A big fan protest is planned prior to Friday’s Premier League match against Everton, despite the Gunners pulling out of the Super League, while ‘#KroenkeOut’ has been trending.
Chelsea supporters made their stance on the Super League amply clear prior to Tuesday’s 0-0 draw with Brighton when they gathered in huge numbers outside of Stamford Bridge, chanting against Perez and condemning their club’s plan to join the new competition. They also blocked the path of the Chelsea team bus to the stadium, with chaotic scenes of Petr Cech pleading with supporters to allow the bus through.
When news filtered through that the likelihood was that they were pulling out, it was celebrated like a goal.
Liverpool’s FSG have generally bucked the trend of being unpopular American owners in the Premier League – but only because they have brought success to their club.
While this has been appreciated along with their business savvy, there was a sense that they still do not understand football culture, and that was made amply clear as they entered their team into the Super League.
It was, naturally, met with disgust from club legend Jamie Carragher, who spoke passionately about the issue on Sky Sports, and from the Spirit of Shankly supporters’ group, who released a statement that said: “FSG have ignored fans in their relentless and greedy pursuit of money. Football is ours, not theirs. Our football club is ours, not theirs.”
Manchester City were the first team to pull out of the Super League plans, and indeed it was hinted by Perez that they were never convinced by them in the first place.
Pep Guardiola was one of the most forceful critics of the competition, declaring that: “When it doesn’t matter if you lose, this is not sport.”
Fans, too, protested against the club’s decision and ultimately the Premier League champions elect were forced into a grovelling apology to supporters.
“We made a mistake and we sincerely apologise to our fans for the disappointment, frustration and anguish caused by the last 72 hours,” they said.
Man Utd supporters have long wanted executive vice president Ed Woodward out of the club, so the failed Super League was a blessing in disguise for them as he became the first major casualty of the shambolic competition. When it became apparent how strongly fan opinion was against the competition, he announced his intention to quit at the end of the year.
Now, though, Red Devils supporters are turning their eyes towards the club’s ownership. They believe the Glazers are more interested in turning a profit than seeing any on-field success. #GlazersOut has been trending on social media and, like with Arsenal, there are protests being planned against the club’s owners.
Club legend Gary Neville spoke passionately against the Glazers on Sky Sports, and there is a strong feeling that the club should now come back into the hands of the fans.
Like the other ‘Big 6’ clubs in England, supporters protested against the Super League proposals, yet the long-lasting consequences at Tottenham are likely to be less profound than at the other clubs.
Within the game, though, chairman Daniel Levy is reported by The Sun to have angered the other 14 Premier League clubs by suggesting that the big clubs deserve more respect and money.
The Super League debacle has been a complete PR disaster for Juventus president Andrea Agnelli, who has lost considerable political power and influence.
In addition to now being a persona non grata in UEFA and the ECA, having left his position as chief of the former, Agnelli has not only alienated the 17 non-Super League clubs in Italy but also many of his own fans.
There have been many Juventini on social media calling for Agnelli to resign over the scandal. These same fans were also furious that Juventus put out a statement on Tuesday about the collapse of the ESL in which, unlike the other rebels, they failed to even mention their fans. Agnelli also refused to apologise.
A banner was erected outside Juve’s stadium, with the club’s old logo imprinted, which read: “Our history should not be muddied, bartered and commercialised. We are Juventus. No to the Super League. Shame on you.”
Agnelli has vowed to carry on as president but with his reputation heavily damaged, there are reports that he could be replaced by his cousin Alessandro Nasi.
There have been no major demonstrations or incidents among Inter fans during this period of chaos. This is perhaps influenced by the fact that the Nerazzurri are currently suffering from a financial crisis.
Chinese owners Suning were hit so hard by the Coronavirus pandemic that they have been desperately trying to find a new majority owner for the club for months. Entrance to the Super League would have eased these economic problems and allowed Inter to be active on the summer market.
Inter coach Antonio Conte did criticise the Super League project after the draw with Spezia on Wednesday night: “As a man of sport, I think we must never forget tradition. This is history and it should be respected.
“We must never forget the passion for sport and, certainly not least, sport must be meritocratic. We work to win and to earn something. Meritocracy must always be first and foremost.”
AC Milan’s Ultras issued a withering attack on the club’s hierarchy over their decision to join the Super League.
Within the long statement, the Curva Sud wrote: “The Super League is just the latest in a long line of innumerable manoeuvres over decades that has made football into a business. It will inevitably obscure the tradition of the various national leagues, robbing football of the undeniable principle of sporting meritocracy.
“Football did belong to the people until the 1990s, when the Champions League was born, destroying the old European Cup. From that moment, an unbreachable chasm has been created between the big and small clubs.
“The Super League is just the latest disgusting step, but those who took football to this point are no less grotesque. Now that the money is running out, feel free to fight it out between yourselves, but don’t you dare name the fans. PIGS!”
There was also anger among fans after technical director and club legend Paolo Maldini revealed that he wasn’t even told about the Super League and only found out after it was announced. This added to the feeling among fans of a plot by only a small nefarious group of villains.
Perhaps because Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid were driven towards the Super League by the chronic financial necessity of the situation, the presidents of these clubs have managed to avoid the worst of the backlash.
Of course, Perez has been targeted by sections of the media, while former Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon branded the league “perhaps the worst announcement in football history”.
El Mundo claimed that the clubs “believe they have found a new chicken laying gold eggs and they plan to exploit it without any intermediaries other than themselves”.
Meanwhile, Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman offered a timid indication that he is not in favour of the plans.