Manchester City decide to pull out as European Super League project stalls

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Manchester City have confirmed their intention to pull out of the proposed European Super League.

City, along with the other members of English football’s so-called ‘big six’, were among 12 clubs plotting to form a breakaway rival to the Champions League.

News of their intention to withdraw from the controversial project came after it emerged Chelsea were also planning to quit.

A City statement read: “Manchester City Football Club can confirm that it has formally enacted the procedures to withdraw from the group developing plans for a European Super League.”

On a day of rapid developments that left the Super League concept in danger of collapse just two days after it was announced, Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward also resigned.

Further reports suggested Atletico Madrid and Barcelona were on the brink of pulling out while there were conflicting reports in Italy over whether or not Juventus president Andrea Agnelli had also resigned.

City’s withdrawal came after manager Pep Guardiola had publicly criticised the Super League concept, which would see the ‘founding members’ guaranteed entry each year, earlier in the day.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin welcomed the news about City.

“They have shown great intelligence in listening to the many voices – most notably their fans – that have spelled out the vital benefits that the current system has for the whole of European football.

“It takes courage to admit a mistake but I have never doubted that they had the ability and common sense to make that decision.

“City are a real asset for the game and I am delighted to be working with them for a better future for the European game.”

The PA news agency understands that Chelsea will follow City. Owner Roman Abramovich is thought to have taken the decision amid widespread condemnation of the concept and considerable fan unrest.

Dissatisfaction was evident on Tuesday evening as the Chelsea team were met by a large-scale protest outside Stamford Bridge ahead of their Premier League game against Brighton.

Fans protest against Chelsea’s involvement in the new European Super League outside Stamford Bridge
Fans protest against Chelsea’s involvement in the new European Super League outside Stamford Bridge (Ian West/PA)

A statement from the Football Association read: “We welcome news that some of the clubs have decided to abandon the plans for the European Super League, which threatened the whole football pyramid.

“English football has a proud history based on opportunity for all clubs and the game has been unanimous in its disapproval of a closed league. It was a position that, by design, could have divided our game; but instead, it has unified us all.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, also a fierce critic of the scheme, took to Twitter on hearing the reports of Chelsea and City.

He wrote: “The decision by Chelsea and Manchester City is – if confirmed – absolutely the right one and I commend them for it. I hope the other clubs involved in the European Super League will follow their lead.”

The positions of United and Liverpool, two of the other English clubs involved, were thought not to have changed, although news also broke on Tuesday of Woodward’s decision.

Woodward, 49, who has been at the helm at Old Trafford since 2013, is thought to have played a key role in the development of the Super League.

It is understood he will remain at United in his current position until the end of 2021.

Ed Woodward
Ed Woodward has called time on his Manchester United career (Martin Rickett/PA)

The affair has made for a remarkable three days in European football with the formation of the Super League having only been announced on Sunday night.

Liverpool, Chelsea, City, Arsenal and Tottenham from England had joined forces with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico, Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan – all apparently unhappy at proposed changes to the Champions League – to create their own competition.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden was another government figure to welcome news of its potential demise.

Dowden tweeted: “Good news that Chelsea and City have seen sense, and I urge the rest to follow swiftly.

“The whole ESL move shows how out-of-touch these owners are. They have completely misjudged the strength of feeling from fans, players and the whole country. Football is for the fans.”

A number of Liverpool players, including captain Jordan Henderson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Milner made their displeasure at the new league clear.

They tweeted: “We don’t like it and we don’t want it to happen. This is our collective position.

“Our commitment to this football club its supporters is absolute and unconditional. You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

A number of other high-profile players also made tweeted their disapproval.

Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne tweeted: “This man comes out a little town out of Belgium dreaming of playing at the highest stage possible.

“I have worked and competed against everybody trying to win the ultimate. But the most important word in this is COMPETING.

“We know this is a big business and I know I am part of this business. But still I am a little boy who just loves to play football.

“It’s not about a certain entity in this case, it’s about the football over the whole world. Let’s keep inspiring the next generation of footballers and keep the fans dreaming.”

Manchester United defender Luke Shaw expressed his concern that the “changes could impact the sport that I and millions of others love”.

He added on Twitter: “We’ve been without supporters in stadiums for over a year now and I know how much myself and the team have missed them in each and every game.

“Fans and players should always have a voice and their opinion should always be counted.”

The 14 Premier League clubs not involved earlier met and “unanimously and vigorously” rejected the Super League idea.

Meanwhile a source involved in the Champions League format talks believes there will need to be a new discussion about the number of matches involved after the big clubs pushed for 10 in the new group phase – something fans’ groups never wanted.

Changes were voted through on Monday which will see the Champions League increase to 36 teams with each playing 10 league stage matches.

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