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Monday, 17 May 2021

Super League under strain but Agnelli says the 'blood pact' presses on

Reuters , Wednesday 21 Apr 2021
Super League
A metal figure of a football player with a ball is seen in front of the words "European Super League" in this illustration
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The European Super League's coalition looked set to crumble further on Wednesday with Italian club Inter Milan expected to join the six English teams in withdrawing from the controversial breakaway competition.

A source close to Inter Milan confirmed to Reuters they were no longer interested in the project "in light of the latest developments".

Inter's departure would leave the ESL with just five teams: Serie A's Juventus and AC Milan along with Spanish sides Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.

Manchester City were the first to back out of the venture on Tuesday, before Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea followed suit.

Liverpool's principal owner John Henry apologised in a video on the club's website and social media on Wednesday.

"It goes without saying but should be said that the project put forward was never going to stand without the support of the fans," he said.

"I alone am responsible for the unnecessary negativity brought forward over the past couple of days. It’s something I won’t forget. And shows the power the fans have today and will rightly continue to have."

Having triggered an enormous backlash from players, fans and football authorities, the Super League said late on Tuesday it would reconsider and look to "reshape" the project, while stopping short of throwing in the towel.

Juventus President Andrea Agnelli struck a more defiant tone in an interview with an Italian newspaper, though it was conducted before the Super League's statement.

"There is a blood pact among our clubs, we will press ahead," Agnelli told la Repubblica when asked if the ESL was sinking after the English withdrawals.

"Yes, it has a 100% chance of being a success."

'BEAUTIFUL DAY'

The Super League had argued that it would increase revenues to the top clubs and allow them to distribute more money to the rest of the game.

However, the sport’s governing bodies, other teams and fans organisations said the breakaway move would only boost the power and wealth of the elite clubs, and that the partially closed structure goes against European football's long-standing model.

Agnelli said threats by football authorities to ban Super League clubs from European competitions were "illegal" and that Juventus players were not worried about them.

"What I fear more is a situation of monopoly with the attempt of stopping a company and its players to exercise their freedom, established in the EU treaty," he said.

"We must come out of this monopoly situation where our regulators are our main rivals."

Players, fans and pundits celebrated the U-turns of the English teams, with some declaring the Super League dead in the water.

"This is the right result for football fans, clubs, and communities across the country. We must continue to protect our cherished national game," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

"What a beautiful day for football. Let's keep playing, let's keep fighting, let's keep dreaming," said Manchester City defender Benjamin Mendy.

Amid fans' celebrations, anger remained. Some pundits said the owners of the English teams would never be forgiven and called on them to pull out.

"They were going to sell the souls of our major football institutions," said Liverpool great Graeme Souness.

"I don't know how these clubs will manage to get back on-side."

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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