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European Super League: How 48 hours of madness unfolded

April 21, 2021

The European Super League lasted 48 hours. From the moment the news broke on Sunday to its death so soon after, it created an almighty stir in the football world. Here's a timeline of what happened when and why.

A solitary Tottenham fan protests against the European Super League.
A solitary Tottenham fan protests against the European Super League.Image: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images

Sunday, 14:00 CEST – The news breaks

News breaks in UK newspaper The Sunday Times that 12 of the top teams in England, Spain and Italy have signed to join a breakaway league, the European Super League.

Details start to leak out that the plan is for a US-style twin conference system with two groups of 10 teams and end-of-season playoffs. The founding members would be immune from relegation and further members would be announced in due course.

The plans are met with outrage by fans, who hadn't even been consulted and had reached a more advanced stage than anyone had realized.

Sunday, 15:00 CEST – German teams not involved

As details start to emerge of the "dirty dozen" — Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus — it becomes clear that no German teams are involved.

Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund — undoubtedly among Europe's elite — had reportedly declined the invitation, with Real Madrid president Florentino Perez later saying they weren't invited.

The CEO of the German Football Association (DFL), Christian Seifert, makes it clear that they are against the idea, claiming it is "irresponsible” and threatens to destroy the structures of European football. 

Sunday, 17:00 CEST – 'cynical project'

Opposition towards an idea widely condemned for being driven by greed is fierce and growing. European football's governing body, UEFA, promises concrete action.

"The clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams," UEFA's statement reads. 

That is followed by a joint statement from UEFA, the Premier League, the English Football Association, La Liga and Serie A, which described the formation of a Super League as a "cynical project founded on the self-interest of a few clubs."

Dortmund fans' banner against the Champions League 'Swiss model' reforms
Dortmund fans' banner against the Champions League 'Swiss model' reformsImage: Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images

Monday 00:00 - Official announcement is made

In a reversal of the usual order of things, the European Super League formally announces its plans after the response from others, in the dead of night in Europe.

"Twelve of Europe’s leading football clubs have today come together to announce they have agreed to establish a new mid-week competition, the Super League, governed by its founding clubs," reads the statement, which is followed by messages posted on Twitter and elsewhere by all 12 clubs. The cat is out of the bag.

Monday, 00:45 CEST- FIFA breaks silence

World governing body FIFA also expresses its "disapproval" of the plans, saying in a late-night statement: "Any football competition, whether national, regional or global, should always reflect the core principles of solidarity, inclusivity, integrity and equitable financial redistribution.

"Against this background, FIFA can only express its disapproval to a 'closed European breakaway league' outside of the international football structures and not respecting the aforementioned principles."

Monday, 08:30 CEST – Clubs harden their positions

All 12 clubs resign their positions from the European Club Association (ECA) as the ESL clubs contact UEFA and FIFA presidents Aleksander Ceferin and Gianni Infantino to warn them against sanctioning them and that legal proceedings were active.

Monday, 10:00 CEST – 'A spit in the face of football lovers'

Ceferin makes his first comments on the Super League at UEFA's congress, and he doesn't hold back.

A furious Ceferin calls it a "disgraceful self-serving proposal," a "spit in the face of all football lovers" and warns players that they will face bans if they follow their clubs in to the new competition.

"My opinion is that as soon as possible they [the clubs] have to be banned from all our competitions and the players from all our competitions," Ceferin said.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin
'Snakes and liars' - UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin didn't hold back in his criticism of the schemersImage: Peter Schatz/Imago Images

Monday, 11:00 CEST – 'Snakes and liars'

Ceferin's explosive speech continues, as he lays into Manchester United CEO Ed Woodward and his (former) friend Andrea Agnelli, the Juventus chairman who reportedly founded the European Super League.

"If I start with Ed Woodward, he called me last Thursday evening saying he's very satisfied with and fully supports the reforms and the only thing he wanted to talk about was FFP [Financial Fair Play rules], when obviously he had already signed something else.

"Andrea Agnelli is the biggest disappointment of all, I've never seen a person that would lie so many times, so persistently as he did. It's unbelievable.

"We might have been naive in not knowing we have snakes close to us. Now we know. There will be legal action soon."

Monday, 17:00 CEST – Rummenigge replaces Agnelli 

In what appears a highly significant move, Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is named as Agnelli's replacement on UEFA's Executive Committee.

The German, who will stand down from Bayern at the end of this season, has previously voiced his opposition to a Super League and this appointment further suggests Bayern are throwing their weight behind UEFA. Paris Saint-Germain chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi also joins the committee.

The Bayern CEO also releases a statement, reaffirming Bayern's commitment to UEFA and Champions League reforms.

"Bayern welcomes the reforms to the Champions League and we believe that this is the right step for the development of European football. The modified group stage will bring more excitement and emotion to the competition," says Rummenigge.

"I do not believe that the Super League will solve the financial problems of European clubs caused by the coronavirus crisis. Moreover, all clubs in Europe should act in solidarity to ensure that cost structures, especially player wages and agents' fees, are adjusted to match revenues, in order to shape European football more rationally."

Monday, 23:30 CEST – 'A league to save football'

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez: 'This is not a league for the rich, it's a league to save football'Image: Rodrigo Jimenez/Agencia EFE/imago images

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez appears on a late-night Spanish TV show to tell the world that he believes the Super League will "save football."

"The Super League is not a closed league, it's absolutely not true. Whoever wins the five available spots will be able to play with the other best teams in the world," he said.

"Audiences are decreasing and rights are decreasing and something had to be done. We are all ruined. Television has to change so we can adapt.

"Young people are no longer interested in football. Why not? Because there are a lot of poor quality games and they are not interested, they have other platforms on which to distract themselves. This is not a league for the rich, it's a league to save football."

Borussia Mönchengladbach sporting director Max Eberl had a different take... 

Tuesday, 11:40 CEST – Infantino threatens sanctions

FIFA President Gianni Infantino echoes Ceferin's earlier promise of sanctions against clubs and players involved in a Super League.

"If some elect to go their own way, then they must live with the consequences of their choice," Infantino said. "Concretely, this means either you are in or you are out. You cannot be half in or half out."

Tuesday, 12:00 CEST – UEFA waves through Champions League reforms

At their Congress, UEFA approves a new 36-team Champions League format, known as the "Swiss Model." The new format has 225 games and sounds suspiciously like a Super League. Could that have been the point of all this? Surely not… 

Tuesday, 13:00 CEST – A split emerges between English clubs

A split emerges between the six English "founding clubs" of the European Super League.

One of the big six English clubs is now seriously considering pulling out of the project, accusing Liverpool and Manchester United — the two clubs leading the breakaway — of lying to them and "f***ing up."

Tuesday, 18:00 CEST – Protests, English exodus

Things come to a head outside Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium, where fans have assembled ahead of the team's Premier League game against Brighton.

Reports start to emerge that Chelsea and Manchester City have decided to pull out of the league, reports which are confirmed soon after when City post a statement on their website.

"Manchester City Football Club can confirm that it has formally enacted the procedures to withdraw from the group developing plans for a European Super League."

UEFA, who had appeared to be acting forcefully against any clubs that signed up, welcomed the English side "back in to the European football family." 

Tuesday, 00:00 CEST – Remaining English teams fall on swords

Liverpool and Arsenal are soon followed by Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United in leaving the party with their tail between their legs. Manchester United's CEO Ed Woodward quits his role.

The European Super League is on its knees, with all English clubs having backed out leaving just their Spanish and Italian counterparts. 

Wednesday, 09:00 CEST – Liverpool owner issues apology

The owner of Liverpool, John W. Henry, posts a video message apologizing to Liverpool fans for their role in the attempted breakaway. 

Wednesday, 10:00 CEST – Agnelli admits project is 'dead'

Things go from bad to worse for the Super League, which loses two more members in Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan. Juventus' share price has plummeted.

Andrea Agnelli, the driving force behind the introduction of the Super League, admits it is dead. But was it ever alive?

The European Super League: As it happened