When 12 of the world’s richest soccer teams announced plans on Sunday for a breakaway league that would remake European soccer for their benefit, it threw the sport into crisis.
Billions of dollars are at stake. So is the future of the Premier League, the Champions League and the World Cup.
The reaction has been scathing
The announcement took the game’s leagues and clubs by surprise, and left many of its officials seething. The president of European soccer’s governing body called the architects of the plan “snakes” and “liars.”
The reaction from fans was no less vitriolic. On Monday, some hung banners outside the stadiums of the 12 founding members of the breakaway league, while others raged against their own teams on social media.
Liverpool was the first of the teams committed to the new Super League to take the field. Hundreds of fans staged a protest before its game at Leeds United, greeting the team bus with howls of derision.
Liverpool’s coach and players said they were blindsided by their team’s move, and stars at other clubs leveled their own criticisms at the plan.
I don’t like it and hopefully it doesn’t happen, Liverpool’s James Milner said.
Politicians were enlisted as potential allies, and Boris Johnson of Britain and Emmanuel Macron of France pledged to block the plan. Prince William, the president of England’s soccer federation, raised his own concerns. He said:
Now, more than ever, we must protect the entire football community – from the top level to the grassroots – and the values of competition and fairness at its core.
I share the concerns of fans about the proposed Super League and the damage it risks causing to the game we love.
Until Monday night, the plan’s architects had been silent. Real Madrid’s president, Florentino Pérez, was the first to break cover by turning up on Spanish TV. He said the Super League was the only way for teams to make up revenues lost to the coronavirus pandemic.
That is unlikely to win hearts and minds. The Super League plan, after all, predates the coronavirus. But with neither side prepared to back down, soccer is bracing for an expensive, high-stakes fight over its future.