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Outrage as England's 'big six' clubs plan to join breakaway European Super League
19 April 2021, 07:59 | Updated: 19 April 2021, 14:12
Plans for the Premier League's 'big six' football clubs to join a controversial breakaway European Super League have sparked fury from across football and politics.
The bombshell plan, announced on Sunday, saw Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham and six other European clubs join together in creating a rival competition to the Champions League.
Three more clubs are expected to join the breakaway group as founding members of the new competition, which will begin "as soon as practicable" and eventually feature 20 teams.
UEFA, European football's governing body, has since said players involved in the Super League will be banned from playing in national teams, such as during the World Cup and European Championships.
Condemnation was almost instant throughout the game as plans emerged on Sunday afternoon, before the clubs officially confirmed the news just before midnight.
Former United and England defender Gary Neville claimed the clubs should be relegated, while retired Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher labelled his club an "embarrassment".
Prime Minister Boris Johnson demanded answers as plans emerged, claiming the plans would be "very damaging for football" and indicated support for football authorities in taking action.
"They would strike at the heart of the domestic game and will concern fans across the country," he added.
"The clubs involved must answer to their fans and the wider footballing community before taking any further steps"
Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action.— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) April 18, 2021
They would strike at the heart of the domestic game, and will concern fans across the country. (1/2)
Announcing the news, United co-chairman Joel Glazer, also vice-chairman of the Super League, said: "By bringing together the world's greatest clubs and players to play each other throughout the season, the Super League will open a new chapter for European football, ensuring world-class competition and facilities, and increased financial support for the wider football pyramid."
The six European clubs joining are Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan - with Bayern Munich and Paris St Germain notably missing from the list.
A joint statement from the clubs read: "Twelve of Europe's leading football clubs have today come together to announce they have agreed to establish a new midweek competition, the Super League, governed by its founding clubs.
"AC Milan, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur have all joined as founding clubs.
"It is anticipated that a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season, which is intended to commence as soon as practicable."
Housing Minister Christopher Pincher told LBC on Monday the Government will "look at all the options" and discuss plans to take action with the top football authorities.
"We're really concerned about the Super League announcement which broke overnight," he said, "We don't want to see a sporting elite of the elite, by the elite, for the elite; we want to see football which is as wide as possible, which is grassroots-based, which is for the fans."
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden also expressed concerns, saying any decisions should involve fans.
"Football supporters are the heartbeat of our national sport and any major decisions made should have their backing," he said in a statement.
"With many fans, we are concerned that this plan could create a closed shop at the very top of our national game. Sustainability, integrity and fair competition are absolutely paramount and anything that undermines this is deeply troubling and damaging for football.
"We have a football pyramid where funds from the globally successful Premier League flow down the leagues and into local communities. I would be bitterly disappointed to see any action that destroys that."
It comes ahead of an expected announcement from UEFA on Monday which confirms changes to the Champions League format.
The European governing body is expected to approve an increase from 32 to 36 teams from 2024, with the existing structure of eight groups of four replaced by one league.
But the statement from the 12 clubs said they do not believe the proposed changes go far enough following the coronavirus pandemic.
They added: "The pandemic has shown that a strategic vision and a sustainable commercial approach are required to enhance value and support for the benefit of the entire European football pyramid.
"In recent months extensive dialogue has taken place with football stakeholders regarding the future format of European competitions.
"The founding clubs believe the solutions proposed following these talks do not solve fundamental issues, including the need to provide higher-quality matches and additional financial resources for the overall football pyramid."
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, who constituency is home to two of the Super League founder clubs, tweeted: "That phrase 'the game's gone' always used to annoy me.
"But with VAR and now this, nothing else better sums up where we are. It's the phrase of the day. #TheGamesGone"