FIFA president Gianni Infantino yesterday said that breakaway European Super League clubs cannot be “half in, half out” of the established soccer system, while Real Madrid president Florentino Perez insisted he is trying to “save football” with the move.
European soccer’s governing body UEFA has threatened to ban the 12 clubs, who include Manchester United and Real Madrid, from domestic and international competition, with Infantino adding his voice to the backlash.
“We strongly disapprove ... if some go their own way then they must live with the consequences of their choice, either you are in, or you are out. You cannot be half in and half out,” Infantino told UEFA’s congress in Montreux, Switzerland.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has not held back on his views of the renegade clubs, who would be guaranteed places in the new competition in contrast to the UEFA Champions League, which requires teams to qualify via their domestic leagues.
However, having labeled the competition a “spit in the face” of soccer fans, Ceferin insisted that there is still time for reconciliation.
“I would like to address the owners of some English clubs. Gentlemen, you made a huge mistake,” he said at the UEFA congress. “Some will say it is greed, others disdain, arrogance or complete ignorance of England’s football culture, but actually it doesn’t matter.”
“What matters is that there is still time to change your mind, everyone makes mistakes. English fans deserve to have you correct your mistake, they deserve respect,” Ceferin said.
At the same congress, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said that the existing structure of European sports is under threat by self-interest and pure commercialism.
“It is challenged by a purely profit-driven approach that ignores the ... social values of sports and real needs in the post-coronavirus world,” IOC president Thomas Bach said.
There have been few voices that have backed the breakaway league, with owners of the 12 teams conspicuous by their absence.
The first senior figure of any club involved to publicly talk about the move was Perez — the new chairman of the Super League — who said soccer needed to evolve and adapt to the times.
“Whenever there is a change, there are always people who oppose it ... and we are doing this to save football at this critical moment,” Perez said on the Spanish TV show El Chiringuito de Jugones.
“Audiences are decreasing and rights are decreasing, and something had to be done. We are all ruined. Television has to change so we can adapt,” he said.
“Young people are no longer interested in football. Why not? Because there are a lot of poor quality games and they are not interested, they have other platforms on which to distract themselves,” Perez said.
English Premier League clubs were meeting without the “Big Six” who have joined the breakaway league. The meeting was expected to decide on a strategy to be taken by the remaining 14 clubs to protect the Premier League and their interests.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a meeting with representatives from the English Football Association, the Premier League and fan groups at which he said that the government would not stand by and allow the creation of a closed shop.
“He reiterated his unwavering support for the football authorities and confirmed they have the government’s full backing to take whatever action necessary to put a stop to these plans,” Johnson’s office said in a statement. “He was clear that no action is off the table and the government is exploring every possibility, including legislative options, to ensure these proposals are stopped.”
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