Man United co-owner Joel Glazer joins chairmen in apologising to fans over ESL

21 April 2021, 17:14 | Updated: 28 April 2021, 19:20

Joel Glazer (right) has said sorry to Manchester United fans over the European Super League
Joel Glazer (right) has said sorry to Manchester United fans over the European Super League. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Manchester United co-owner Joel Glazer has issued a rare statement apologising to fans over the club's decision to join the now-obsolete European Super League (ESL).

The 50-year-old co-chairman admitted that he and his colleagues had "got it wrong" in signing the club up for the already-defunct breakaway competition.

In an open letter to supporters published on Wednesday, he said he is "personally committed to rebuilding trust with fans" and that he and the club "apologise unreservedly for the unrest caused during these past few days".

Glazer, who was vice-chairman of the Super League, added that he still believes European football needs to become more sustainable but said the competition "was not the right way to go about it."

It comes hours after Liverpool's principal owner John W Henry apologised for his part in the proposed ESL.

In a video posted by the club on Twitter, Henry said the competition would only have worked with the full support of fans.

Read more: ESL founder says it 'cannot go on' after England's 'big six' pull out

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On Tuesday night, as the plans for the Super League began crumbling, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy said the club "regret the anxiety and upset caused by the proposal".

Meanwhile, Arsenal apologised for their "mistake" in signing up for the venture that was announced on Sunday night.

Chelsea posted a statement on its website early on Wednesday morning saying that continuing with the plans to join the league "would not be in the best interests of the Club, our supporters or the wider football community".

The chief executive of Manchester City, the first club to formally announce on Tuesday its decision to withdraw from the competition, also wrote an apology to supporters.

In an email sent out on Wednesday evening, Ferran Soriano said the club "failed to remind ourselves of the unbreakable link between the passion of our fans and the right to have the opportunity to earn success".

He added that the board "deeply regrets taking a decision that lost sight of the historic values of the club".

"We made a mistake and we sincerely apologise to our fans for the disappointment, frustration and anguish caused by the last 72 hours," Mr Soriano said.

Read more: PM hails English clubs' ESL withdrawal as plans hang in balance

Watch: European Super League 'is done', says sports lawyer, as clubs withdraw

Elsewhere on Wednesday, Spanish side Atletico Madrid confirmed it was stepping away from the ESL.

It said in a statement: "For the club, harmony is essential between all the groups that make up the Rojiblanca family, especially our fans.

"The first-team squad and their coach have shown their satisfaction with the club's decision, understanding that sporting merits must prevail over any other criteria."

They were swiftly followed by Italian Serie A outfit Inter Milan, who said they are "always committed to giving fans the best football experience".

Inter's rivals AC Milan later issued a more defiant message but they too confirmed their departure from the ESL.

"Change is not always easy, but evolution is necessary for progress, and the structures of European football have evolved and changed over the decades," the club said in a statement.

"However, 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."

Read more: All six English clubs set for ESL withdraw after fan protests

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Juventus said they remained "convinced of the validity of the sporting, commercial and legal assumptions of the (Super League) project", but added it only currently had "limited" possibilities of being completed in the form in which it was initially conceived, following the withdrawal of other clubs.

Later, the Duke of Cambridge said he is "glad" fans have been "heard and listened to" following the withdrawal of the 'big six' English Premier League clubs .

A tweet, from the Kensington Royal account, said: "I'm glad the united voice of football fans has been heard and listened to. It is now really important that we use this moment to secure the future health of the game at all levels.

"As President of the FA, I'm committed to playing my part in that work."

However, the 'Big Six' clubs could still face Premier League sanctions despite backing out of the breakaway league.

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber called for "appropriate action" to be taken against the clubs involved on Wednesday morning, even though by then each had indicated their intention to withdraw.

It is understood the league's position has not altered since it issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon, when all six were still signatories to the Super League.

At the time, it said: "The Premier League is considering all actions available to prevent it from progressing, as well as holding those (clubs) involved to account under its rules."

Section L9 of the league's handbook states member clubs shall not enter or play in extra competitions without the prior written approval of the league's board.

Tuesday's statement from the league followed an emergency meeting of its other 14 clubs in response to the crisis.

Glazer's statement said: "Over the past few days, we have all witnessed the great passion which football generates, and the deep loyalty our fans have for this great club.

"You made very clear your opposition to the European Super League, and we have listened. We got it wrong, and we want to show that we can put things right.

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"Although the wounds are raw and I understand that it will take time for the scars to heal, I am personally committed to rebuilding trust with our fans and learning from the message you delivered with such conviction.

"We continue to believe that European football needs to become more sustainable throughout the pyramid for the long-term. However, we fully accept that the Super League was not the right way to go about it."

The Glazer family completed their controversial takeover at United in 2005 and have had to withstand a number of protests against them during their ownership.

He continued: "In seeking to create a more stable foundation for the game, we failed to show enough respect for its deep-rooted traditions –promotion, relegation, the pyramid – and for that we are sorry.

"This is the world’s greatest football club and we apologise unreservedly for the unrest caused during these past few days.

"It is important for us to put that right."

The 50-year-old also said he recognises the need to "better communicate with you, our fans" and that his team will be "taking the necessary steps to rebuild relationships with other stakeholders across the game".