Manchester United and England legend Gary Neville has led the angry backlash criticising clubs who have signed up for a proposed European Super League.
Neville has gone so far as to state that those sides who have signed the proposals should be punished with a points deduction.
His reaction came after bodies such as the Premier League and UEFA condemned the cabal of sides pushing for the new competition.
What did Neville say?
Speaking on Sky Sports, he stated: “I’m not against the modernisation of football competition, but to bring forward proposals in the wake of Covid is an absolute scandal. United and the rest of the big six clubs that have signed up to it should be ashamed of themselves.
“Are Arsenal in the league? They’ve just drawn to Fulham. The six English clubs should have points docked from them this season. It’s an absolute joke.
“It’s been damned and rightly so. I’m a Man Utd fan and have been for 40 years. I’m disgusted with Manchester United and Liverpool most.
“Liverpool, they pretend ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, the people’s club, the fans’ club. Man Utd, 100 years born out of workers around here and they’re breaking away into a league without competition, that they can’t be relegated from.
“We have to wrestle back the power in this country from the clubs at the top of this league – and that includes my club. I’ve been calling for 12 months as part of another group for an independent regulator to bring checks in place to stop this happening.
“It’s pure greed. They’re imposters. They’re nothing to do with football in this country. There’s 100 years of history in this country from fans that have lived and loved these clubs, and they need protecting.
“I’m not against money in football. The principles and ethos of fair competition and the right to play the game, so that Leicester win the league, they go into the Champions League… Man Utd aren’t in the Champions League, Arsenal aren’t in the Champions League – they’re a shambles of a football club right now.
“Deduct them all points tomorrow, put them at the bottom of the league and take their money off them. Seriously, you’ve got to stamp on this. It’s criminal. It’s a criminal act against football fans in this country, make no mistake about it. This is the biggest sport in the world, it’s the biggest sport in this country and it’s a criminal act, as simple as that.
“They’re bottle merchants. You never hear from the owners of these clubs. They’ve got no voice. They’ll probably hide in a few weeks and say it was nothing to do with them. In the midst of a pandemic, an economic crisis, football clubs at National League level going bust, furloughing players, clubs on the edge in League One and Two, and this lot are having Zoom calls about breaking away and creating more greed.”
Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish reacted on Twitter: “Drop the mic and take a bow!”
Roy Keane, another United legend, added: “It comes down to money, greed. Obviously, we’ve heard nothing from FIFA yet but it doesn’t sound good, let’s hope they stop it in its tracks because it is just pure greed.
“We talk about big clubs – Bayern Munich are one of the biggest clubs in the world. At least they’ve made a stand, which is a good start.”
And Micah Richards said: “The Premier League has been run amazingly. We all know clubs are an investment, it’s a business at the end of the day but what happens to the fans?
“What happens to the memories the fans have had over the years, they’re just forgotten about for the sake of money? That’s the way football has become now and it’s an absolute disgrace if I’m honest.”
What do fans think?
Additionally, Football Supporters Europe (FSE), a body representing supporters in 45 UEFA countries, issued a statement.
“Along with the overwhelming majority of fans, Football Supporters Europe is wholly opposed to plans to create a breakaway Super League.
“This closed-shop competition will be the final nail in the coffin of European football, forsaking everything that has made it so popular and successful – sporting merit, promotion and relegation, qualification to UEFA competition via domestic success, and financial solidarity.
“It is illegitimate, irresponsible and anti-competitive by design.
“More to the point, it is driven exclusively by greed. The only ones who stand to gain are hedge funds, oligarchs and a handful of already wealthy clubs, many of which perform poorly in their own domestic leagues, despite their inbuilt advantage.
“Enough is enough.
“FSE calls on football’s governing bodies to act immediately to protect the European game: first, by imposing sanctions on the breakaway clubs; and second, by scrapping proposals to reform UEFA club competitions, which were designed to benefit the same clubs.”
Who else has criticised the plans?
Spanish League president Javier Tebas offered a stinging rebuke to plans on Twitter, stating: “Finally the “gurus” of the superleague PowerPoint are exiting the darkness of the bar at 5am, intoxicated with selfishness and a lack of solidarity. UEFA and
European Leagues, La Liga have been preparing and they will get their answer.”
The French government are among the largest non-footballing organisations to hit out at the plan, with a statement published by RMC reading: “President of France Emmanuel Macron welcomes the position of French clubs to refuse to participate in a European football super league project threatening the principle of sporting merit.”
Ligue 1 clubs notably refused to agree to the plans, earning praise, along with the Bundesliga, for their stance by UEFA.
The UK government has also criticised the proposals. Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Oliver Dowden posted on Twitter: “Football supporters are the heartbeat of our national sport and any major decisions made should have their backing.
“With many fans, we are concerned that this plan could create a closed shop at the very top of our national game. Sustainability, integrity and fair competition are absolutely paramount and anything that undermines this is deeply troubling and damaging for football.
“We have a football pyramid where funds from the globally successful Premier League flow down the leagues and into local communities. I would be bitterly disappointed to see any action that destroys that.”