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April 23, 2021

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Barca maintains support for ESL

Barcelona President Joan Laporta maintained his support for the European Super League yesterday despite the quick exit of 10 of the 12 founding clubs in the breakaway competition.

The ESL, which provoked a backlash by other clubs, fans and authorities around Europe, was announced by a dozen top clubs in England, Spain and Italy on Sunday, but it quickly collapsed and is now officially backed only by Barcelona and Real Madrid.

“It is absolutely necessary,” Laporta said on Catalan public television in his first public comments on the project. “The biggest clubs create the most financial resources and we must have our say in deciding how the earnings are shared.”

The six English clubs involved in the competition pulled out on Tuesday amid escalating backlash from their supporters and warnings from the British government. A day later, Spanish club Atletico Madrid and the three Italian teams in the project — Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan — also opted out.

Despite being left nearly alone, Real President Florentino Perez — the competition’s supposed first chairman — said late on Wednesday that the idea was not dead, but rather on standby.

Both Juventus and AC Milan left open the possibility of joining a Super League at a later date in their statements on Wednesday.

Barcelona’s finances have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has compounded problems in a budget that was already loaded by the highest payroll in soccer last season. The 12 elite clubs wanted to boost their revenues by cutting UEFA out of the equation and replacing the Champions League with the new tournament of 20 teams, including 15 teams who would always play in it.

Barcelona’s participation was conditioned by Laporta’s pledge to let the club’s members vote on the proposal.

“We are keeping a prudent stance,” he said. “It is a necessity, but our club members will have the final word.”

Meanwhile, a pronouncement from Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola that the abandoned ESL was a “closed chapter” is proving way wide of the mark.

The ripples of discontent from the failed power-grab by England’s so-called “Big Six” were continuing to be felt yesterday, when a group of Manchester United fans unhappy at the club’s involvement in the scheme gained access to its training ground.

The protesters, reportedly numbering about 20, carried banners with messages including “Glazers out” — a reference to the Glazer family that owns United — and “We decide when you play.”

Eventually, they got to speak to United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and members of his backroom staff.

“Buildings were secure and the group has now left the site,” United said in a statement about an incident that took place at 9am at the Carrington practice complex, before the team trained.

There were fan protests this week outside soccer grounds for matches featuring Liverpool, Chelsea, and Tottenham Hotspur, three of the other English teams who signed up to join the ESL.

Mikel Arteta, the manager of Arsenal — the sixth English team involved — said yesterday disgruntled fans “sent probably the strongest message that has ever been sent in the football world.”


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