KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- The six English clubs plotting a breakaway Super League have been urged to step back from the brink by the head of European football.
Aleksander Ceferin, who is also a vice-president of world governing body FIFA, used the platform of UEFA Congress in Montreux to appeal to the better social natures of the owners of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.
Ceferin is aware that, without the six Premier League giants, the Super League project will be dead in the water with only three Italian and three Spanish clubs adrift on an angry ocean of their own choosing.
The Slovene, while addressing leaders of Europe’s 55 member associations, turned directly to the bosses of the Premier rebels.
He said: “Gentlemen, you made a huge mistake. Some will say it is greed, others disdain, arrogance or ignorance of England’s football culture. What matters it is that there is still time to change your minds.
“Everyone makes mistakes. English fans deserve for you to change your minds.
“All the governments are with us along with the fans, the media. Only some greedy people, a few, are on the other side. Are we allowing them to take football? No. we will not allow that.
“Come to your senses, not out of love for football because I imagine some of don’t have much of that but for those who want the dream to be kept alive. For those people, change your minds; change your minds out of respect for the English people.”
Taking a wider view of the power game, Ceferin criticised the “attempt to create a new vocabulary.”
He said: “For some, supporters have become consumers, fans have become customers and competitions have become products. Pre match they no longer look at team line-ups but betting odds and numbers of followers on Twitter and after the final whistle it is no longer the number of goals but viewing figures and shares prices.
“The ultimate aim for some is no longer to decorate the clubs trophy rooms with silverware but to fill the accounts. Selfishness is replacing solidarity. Money has become more important than glory; greed more important than loyalty and dividends more important than passion.”
Warming to his angry theme, he continued: “We hear day and night about owners, owners owners. What or whom do they own? Football belongs to everyone because football is part of our heritage.”
Ceferin devoted much of his address to acknowledging the crisis created throughout European football by the coronavirus pandemic and paid tribute to all the associations, leagues, stadia directors, clubs and players whose “sacrifices” had enabled football to survive.
He said: “You showed you care about the values of football and that, if we stand together, we are unbeatable and can preserve the values of football.
“This crisis has proved once and for all that football is embedded in our societies’ DNA. It is part of our continent’s history and collective memories. It has been one of its greatest success stories for more than a century.
“It is much more than a game. It brings people together and brightens up our lives. When footall returned, first in Germany then Spain, England, Italy, it gave people a framework again. It gave them their bearings back.
“Football was a lifeline for many. Our competitions gave the whole world hope when life had come to a standstill.”
Ceferin promised a successful staging of the rescheduled Euro 2020 finals in June and July, a “new era” for women’s football and urged social media giants to act against purveyors of racist abuse on their platforms.
He also denied reports that UEFA would ditch financial fair play.
Ceferin said: “It is thanks to financial fair play hundreds of clubs have avoided collapsing in the last few months. We need to protect people who support their local clubs and we do need to correct some of the injustices that it might indirectly bring about in the current crisis. We will do this.”
The 55 member associations and participants in the UEFA Congress condemn the declaration of a so called “Super League.” The UEFA Congress is adamant that the closed “Super League” goes against the very concept of what it is to be European: unified, open, supportive, and principled on sporting values.
UEFA and its member associations believe in a truly European model that is founded on open competitions, solidarity and redistribution to ensure the sustainability and development of the game for the benefit of all and the promotion of European values and social outcomes.
The conspirator clubs have obviously failed to see that their status today was not achieved in isolation, but rather was part of a dynamic European system where big, medium and small clubs have all contributed to the successes and losses of everyone. It is an affront to European values and sporting merit for them to assume they are entitled to “separate” and lay claim to the legacy that everyone built.
UEFA, its member associations and all those who love football stand firm and will strongly resist and fight against this move by these clubs’ owners and their backers to the fullest extent possible. We know, morally, what is at stake and will protect football from a selfish clan who care nothing for the game. We are European football. They are not.
The statement was endorsed unanimously by UEFA Congress.