| 14 April 2024, Sunday |

Threats of expulsion as UEFA confronts Super League rebel 12

MONTREUX, Switzerland: The deceptions, distrust and divisions in European soccer erupted in public on Monday between teams and even within the clubs breaking away to form a Super League that could leave them and their players outcasts in the global game.

Condemnation of the 12 rebels clubs from England, Spain and Italy even came from Prince William, who followed the British government in railing against moves to split from longstanding structures to play in a largely closed competition rather than Europe’s existing UEFA-run Champions League.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin turned on club leaders he called “snakes” and “liars,” singling out Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli and Manchester United vice chairman Ed Woodward for betraying him by reneging on a pledge to stick within existing structures.

Ceferin threatened players from the Super League clubs with being banned from the European Championship and next year’s World Cup.

“They will not be able to represent their national teams at any matches,” Ceferin warned earlier. “UEFA and the footballing world stand united against the disgraceful self-serving proposal we have seen in the last 24 hours from a select few clubs in Europe that are fueled purely by greed above all else.”

Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez, the founding chairman of the Super League, downplayed UEFA’s threat to ban players.

The players “can be assured that this won’t happen,” Pérez said in a late-night Spanish television interview. “It’s not going to happen. We won’t get into the legal aspects of it, but it won’t happen. It’s impossible.”

The strident rhetoric from Ceferin was followed on Monday by criticism of the Super League even by Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp, despite Liverpool’s owner John Henry securing the six-time European champion’s participation in the new competition.

“I don’t think it’s a great idea,” he said after Liverpool was held by Leeds to 1-1. It’s a result that puts Liverpool two points from the four Champions League qualification places, showing just why Henry would want the team in a Super League where the spot is locked in.

Three of the 12 rebel clubs — Chelsea, Manchester City and Real Madrid — are scheduled to play in the Champions League semifinals next week. Two more, Manchester United and Arsenal, are in the Europa League semifinals. Ceferin said he wants to boot them out as “as soon as possible” from UEFA competitions, but that will require “legal assessments” that will begin Tuesday.

Pérez said the new competition is being created to “save soccer” and complained of a campaign to make the Super League look bad by those who would “lose their privileges.”

“We have to explain to everyone that this is not a league for the rich clubs,” Pérez said in an interview broadcast early Tuesday on the Spanish television program El Chiringuito de Jugones. “It’s a league to save all the clubs. Otherwise, soccer will die.”

He also said the new league likely won’t start next season if no deal is reached with European soccer’s governing body.

Ceferin led a meeting of UEFA’s executive committee Monday only hours after the 12 clubs announced the Super League project that threatens to split the historic structure of European soccer. He received backing from the English Football Association President Prince William, the second-in-line to the British throne.

“Now, more than ever, we must protect the entire football community – from the top level to the grassroots – and the values of competition and fairness at its core,” he tweeted on the Kensington Palace account. “I share the concerns of fans about the proposed Super League and the damage it risks causing to the game we love.”

The 12 clubs planning to start the breakaway Super League have informed the leaders of FIFA and UEFA that they have begun legal action aimed at fending off threats to block their competition.

  • Associated Press