Chelsea and Manchester City are to withdraw from the European Super League. The clubs on Sunday were among 12 teams, including six from the Premier League, to join as founder members.
Chelsea’s decision emerged amid protests by their fans outside Stamford Bridge and after their players had told the club’s chairman, Bruce Buck, that they would not want to play in the Super League if they were banned from participating in international football. City fans have also made their opposition known.
The moves cast serious doubt over the future of the competition and comes on the day Pep Guardiola followed his Liverpool counterpart Jürgen Klopp in criticising the plan. “It is not a sport where the relation between the effort and the success, the effort and the reward, does not exist,” City’s manager said.
Although Chelsea still have issues with Uefa’s governance of European football, they have decided that taking part in the competition is not the right thing to do. Sources said that Roman Abramovich, the club’s owner, did not enter football for personal financial gain.
Chelsea fans had gathered in numbers before Tuesday’s Premier League game at home to Brighton to express their opposition, with one sign urging Abramovich to “do the right thing”.
Chelsea’s move comes amid a backdrop that saw significant concerns raised in a meeting between the players and Buck on Monday. Buck had convened them to outline what was, at that point, the club’s motivation behind joining the Super League but several international players spoke up and stated in no uncertain terms that they would not countenance a future in which they were barred from playing at World Cups, European Championships and other major tournaments.
Alarm bells had rung loudly, both among Chelsea’s squad and at other clubs among the six potential English defectors by an assertion by the Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin that those competing in the Super League would be prevented from representing their national teams. Those fears duly relayed to Buck.
In the same meeting, players also raised the question of whether they would be in line for enhanced contracts given the influx of money that would flow into the club’s coffers if the Super League began as planned. Clubs have been promised a “welcome bonus” of €200m-300m each by the US investment bank JP Morgan Chase, which is financing the project and committing €3.25bn towards getting it off the ground.
Those are far from the only concerns about a project that has caused disquiet in dressing rooms beyond west London since the proposed Super League was dramatically outlined late on Sunday night. Players were frustrated to receive no warning about the scheme from their clubs or elsewhere, while staff across the clubs are understood to be particularly upset at the lack of notice given.
One source described Chelsea’s players as “shocked and confused” by the news; similarly a figure close to one of their putative Super League rivals said their players were “as shocked as everyone else”. Chelsea’s squad, at least, may now have seen their doubts headed off at the pass.