April 18, 2024
European Super League: Players and fans condemn controversial competition

European Super League: Players and fans condemn controversial competition

Fan protests were held outside Leeds’ Elland Road stadium and a banner that read “#saynotosuperleague” was flown over the ground before kickoff.

On the pitch, Leeds players wore shirts with the words “Football is for the fans” and “Earn it” alongside a Champions League logo during their warmup — a reference to teams having to qualify to play in the Champions League, which wouldn’t be the case for founding clubs of the Super League.

Liverpool is one of 12 teams to have signed up for the competition, a breakaway European league currently featuring top teams from England, Spain and Italy.

A plane flies over Elland Road in protest against the European Super League.

Most teams involved in the competition, which could begin as early as later this year and generate more revenue than the current European competitions, would be permanent members.

“It’s amazing the things they’re talking about, I can’t quite comprehend them,” Leeds forward Patrick Bamford told Sky Sports after Monday’s game, which ended 1-1.

“It’s amazing the amount of uproar that comes into the game when somebody’s pockets are being hurt. It’s a shame it’s not like that with other things that go wrong at the minute — with racism.

“I haven’t seen one football fan who’s happy about the decision and I think football ultimately is for the fans. Without the fans, every single club would be pretty much nothing. So I think that it’s important that we stand our ground and show football is for the fans and try to keep it that way.”

Leeds players protested against the European Super League before kickoff.

The announcement of the Super League on Sunday sparked widespread condemnation from the football world and beyond, including from players whose clubs have signed up for the league.

“I can only say my personal opinion, I don’t like it. Hopefully, it doesn’t happen,” Liverpool captain James Milner told Sky Sports.

“The players obviously had no say, so the welcome we got to the ground tonight felt a bit unjust. We’re here to play football and have no control of it.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp — whose side is sixth in the Premier League, two spots outside what would be automatic qualification for the Champions League — spoke out against the concept of a European Super League in 2019 and reiterated his concerns on Monday.

“People are not happy with it, I can understand that,” Klopp told Sky Sports.

“But I cannot say a lot more about it to be honest because we were not involved in any process, not the players, not me, we didn’t know about it … we will have to wait (and see) how it develops.”

“I have obviously no issues with the Champions League … I like the fact that (fourth-placed) West Ham might play in the Champions League next year. I don’t want them to, to be honest, because we want to do that, but I like that they have the chance.”

Fans pose with a banner before Monday's game.

The draw against Leeds was the first time since March 7 that Liverpool had dropped points in the Premier League after three consecutive victories.

Sadio Mane opened the scoring for the visiting side when he turned Trent Alexander-Arnold’s squared pass into an open net in the first half.

However, Leeds pushed for an equalizer in the second half and eventually leveled the score in the 87th minute when Diego Llorente headed in from a corner.

Perez: Super League will ‘save’ football

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, the first chairman of the Super League whose club is one of the founding members, has spoken of how the competition is crucial for the long term health of football.

Speaking to Spanish sports show El Chiringuito, Perez said that the game had to adapt as young audiences “aren’t interested in football anymore.”

“Football has to evolve, like life does, like companies do, like we do, like people do, like thought processes,” he said.

“Social media has changed how people behave and entertain themselves. Football has to change and it has to adapt to the times we live in … Something had to be done, but the pandemic told us that we had to do it urgently.”

Perez is the first chairman of the Super League.

Perez added that “big clubs play(ing) each other” generates the most interest in the game.

“You’ll understand that a Madrid-United or a Barcelona-Milan are more watchable than a Manchester United versus a team that’s more modest that plays in the Champions League because all the countries participate.”

CNN’s Patrick Sung Cuadrado contributed to this report.