London (dpa) – The breakaway European Super League announced by 12 elite sides on Sunday has effectively collapsed after Atletico Madrid, AC and Inter Milan joined the six-strong English contingent in quitting the project.
Now only Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona officially remain after Juventus also conceded on Wednesday that “at present there are limited chances that the project be completed in the form originally conceived.”
The Turin side, in their English language statement, did not formally say they would withdraw however and insisted they remain both “convinced of the soundness of the project’s sport, commercial and legal premises” and “committed to pursuing the creation of long-term value for the Company and the entire football industry.”
Atletico said they had joined “in response to circumstances that no longer exist today” while Inter said “our engagement with all stakeholders to improve the football industry will never change.
“Inter believes that football … must have an interest in constantly improving its competitions, to keep on exciting fans of all ages around the world, within a framework of financial sustainability.
“With this vision we look forward to carry on working together with institutions and all stakeholders for the future of the sport we all love.”
The statements from the pair were similar in language to that of the English six and offered little in way of apology for throwing European football into disarray and sparking rage among virtually everyone with an interest in the game – fans, governing bodies, players, media and even British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Seven-time European champions AC Milan were little more conciliatory in admitting “the voices and the concerns of fans around the world have clearly been expressed about the Super League, and AC Milan must be sensitive to the voice of those who love this wonderful sport.”
Liverpool’s main owner John W Henry eventually held his hands up and said in a club video he wanted “to apologize to all the fans and supporters … for the disruption I caused over the last 48 hours.
“It goes without saying but should be said, the project put forward was never going to stand without the support of the fans.”
Liverpool along with Manchesters City and United, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea withdrew on Tuesday less than two days after declaring their intention to form a new competition.
Italian record champions Juventus initially insisted they remained committed to the breakaway.
“Between our clubs there is a blood pact, we will continue,” Juventus chief Andrea Agnelli to La Repubblica on Wednesday, saying the possibility of the plan succeeding was 100 per cent.
But with clubs departing at a tremendous rate this became unfeasible.
Agnelli called for dialogue with ruling body FIFA and European confederation UEFA but they have little need to make major concessions with the Super League now stalled.
German giants Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, and French side Paris Saint-Germain all rejected the chance to become permanent members of the league which would include five more teams through unspecified qualification each year.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin reacted furiously to the announcement made just hours before the expansion of the Champions League from 2024 was confirmed and threatened to ban players from international football. Clubs also ran the risk of being kicked out of their domestic leagues.
The 53-year-old Slovene however appeared in the mood to move on quickly rather than consider recriminations.
“I said yesterday that it is admirable to admit a mistake and these clubs made a big mistake,” Ceferin said.
“But they are back in the fold now and I know they have a lot to offer not just to our competitions but to the whole of the European game.”
The European Super League itself said it would “reshape the project” after the English rethink but it would continue with the new European competition as the “existing system does not work.”
With their numbers decimated that now looks impossible and a retreat to the umbrella of UEFA seems inevitable, even if they wish to continue to push for change.
UEFA, with key figures from Bayern and PSG on their executive committee as members representing the European Club Association and with Champions League reform approved, are well placed to defend themselves in the short-term.
The implication from Juventus though suggests the battle for the future of European football is far from over.