Super League fiasco leaves 'dirty dozen' facing punishment

·4 min read

Football's most powerful clubs faced mounting calls for reprisals over the European Super League fiasco on Thursday, although UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said next week's Champions League semi-finals were unlikely to be affected.

Super League chief Florentino Perez, president of Real Madrid, had insisted Wednesday the rebel competition was merely "on standby" despite nine teams pulling out.

Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea withdrew on Tuesday, followed by Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan and AC Milan 24 hours later.

Premier League leaders City are due to play Paris Saint-Germain, conspicuous by their absence from the Super League plans, in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals on April 28, a tie Ceferin expects to go ahead as scheduled.

Record 13-time winners Real Madrid face Chelsea in the other last-four clash.

"There is relatively little chance that next week's matches will not be played," Ceferin told Slovenian television Pop TV.

"The key thing is that the season has already started. If we cancelled the matches, television stations would have compensation demands."

Ceferin struck a conciliatory tone on Wednesday, saying he wanted to "rebuild the unity" of European football, and described the English clubs as "back in the fold".

The mass pull-out left the Super League with just Barcelona and Perez's Real Madrid, along with Italian champions Juventus -- who admitted the lucrative project could not now go ahead.

Manchester United fans breached security at their club's training ground on Thursday as they protested against the Glazer family for the owners' role in the failed breakaway league.

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was forced to speak to around 20 supporters after they blocked both entrances to the Carrington headquarters.

The protestors unfurled banners that read "51% MUFC 20", "We decide when you play" and "Glazer out".

The 51 percent is a reference to fans holding the majority of voting rights at a club, which is commonplace in German football. Bayern Munich came out strongly opposed to the Super League.

Mikel Arteta said he received a personal apology from Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke and saluted supporters for sending the "strongest message" football has ever seen.

- 'Football belongs to the fans' -

Arteta believes the rapid and passionate response fans of Premier League clubs played a key role in convincing the owners to back down.

"This has given big lessons and it shows the importance of football in the world," Arteta said.

"It shows that the soul of this sport belongs to the fans."

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola called the controversy a "closed chapter" following his side's 2-1 victory at Aston Villa.

"I think everyone who loves football didn't support this Super League, including players at our club," City captain Fernandinho told Sky Sports.

"We are so happy now because everything was turned around and all the people who love football are calm.

"For sure, we are happy because at the end football wins."

Despite the tournament's swift demise, Perez was defiant, saying: "The project is on standby. The project exists."

"I am sad and disappointed. We have been working on this for three years and fighting against the financial situation in Spanish football," added Perez, in an interview with Spain's Cadena Ser radio.

"I have never seen aggression like it, from the president of UEFA and some presidents of the national leagues.

"It seemed orchestrated, it surprised all of us. It was like nothing I've seen in my career, like we had killed football. We were working on how to save football."

UEFA's executive committee will decide whether to punish the "dirty dozen" -- the Super League's 12 founding clubs -- at its next meeting on Friday, said its Swedish vice-president Karl-Erik Nilsson.

"It's already had consequences one way or another, with the shame they have to live with now," Nilsson told football website Fotbollskanalen.

"There will be consequences in their own organisations, and whether there will be further consequences is something we need to discuss."

Supporter groups are calling for "real change" at their clubs, whose foreign owners are often seen as aloof and out of touch with fans.

"The Super League is dead. Now we need to work with government to change how English football clubs are owned," said the Arsenal Supporters' Trust, while the Spirit of Shankly accused Liverpool owner John Henry of "crocodile tears".

"This debacle must be a catalyst for real change, not an exercise in damage limitation," the fan group said.

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