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April 22, 2021

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Reds owner says sorry as ESL fan anger grows

After the aborted attempt to form a European Super League, Liverpool owner John Henry attempted to regain the trust of fans with an apology video yesterday.

The same public contrition was yet to come from all six of the English Premier League clubs who faced two days of fury from their supporters for deciding — briefly — to abandon the UEFA system to join a largely closed breakaway European competition.

On a frenzied night of statements, Liverpool withdrew on Tuesday from the 12-team project along with the other five English rebel clubs, imploding the planned split from the existing UEFA Champions League. “Over these 48 hours you were very clear that it would not stand,” Henry told supporters. “No one ever thought differently in England. We heard you. I heard you.”

English club owners like Henry didn’t just fail to consult their supporters. Even players and coaching staff at the EPL champion were left in the dark before the announcement on Sunday of the ESL.

Liverpool players publicly voiced their opposition in a wave of coordinated tweets on Tuesday night to intensify the pressure on Henry to keep the six-time European Cup winner within the long-standing, open competition.

Henry directly apologized to manager Juergen Klopp and the staff. “They were the most disrupted and unfairly so,” Henry said. “This is what hurts most.”

The attempt at damage-limitation was familiar from Liverpool since the Fenway Sports Group bought the club in October 2010. Under Henry, the club has apologized for backing then-striker Luis Suarez in a racism case, for hiking ticket prices and for trying to use state aid to pay staff during the pandemic.

Henry, who also owns the Boston Red Sox, accepted he had to “rebuild trust” after letting down the fans.

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

Fans of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur did not receive a similar apology from their owners for the fleeting attempt to join the Super League.

The hours before the collapse of the ESL saw the British government threaten to introduce laws to stop it with Prime Minister Boris Johnson even holding emergency talks with supporters. The government indicated to fans it is exploring adopting the 50-plus-1 rule from Germany that gives fans the majority of voting rights, nominally to protect clubs from being controlled by private investors.

“Supporter engagement has to be embedded into the decision making and power structure of all clubs,” the Football Supporters’ Association said.

United, City and Chelsea only gave brief statements announcing they were deserting the ESL with no details.

Expressing disappointment at receiving no apology from the club, the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust said it has no confidence in the club’s leadership at board level led by chairman Bruce Buck — indicating their ongoing backing for owner Roman Abramovich, whose vast wealth has transformed the team since 2003.


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