FIFA calls for Super League clarity, Perez says proposal is ‘saving football’

Wednesday, 21 April 2021 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

FIFA President Gianni Infantino

Reuters: FIFA President Gianni Infantino said yesterday that breakaway Super League clubs cannot be “half in, half out” of the established soccer system, while Real Madrid supremo Florentino Perez insisted he is trying to “save football” with the move.

European soccer’s governing body UEFA has threatened to ban the 12 clubs, who include Manchester United and Real Madrid, from domestic and international competition, with Infantino adding his voice to the backlash. 

“We strongly disapprove... if some go their own way then they must live with the consequences of their choice, either you are in, or you are out. You cannot be half in and half out.” Infantino told UEFA’s congress in Montreux, Switzerland.

UEFA chief Aleksander Ceferin has not held back on his views of the renegade clubs, who will be guaranteed places in the new competition in contrast to the Champions League which requires teams to qualify via their domestic leagues. 

Having labelled the competition a “spit in the face” of football fans, Ceferin insisted, however, that there is still time for reconciliation at the UEFA congress yesterday.

“I would like to address the owners of some English clubs. Gentlemen, you made a huge mistake,” he said. “Some will say it is greed others disdain, arrogance or complete ignorance of England’s football culture but actually it doesn’t matter.

“What matters is that there is still time to change your mind, everyone makes mistakes, English fans deserve to have you correct your mistake, they deserve respect.”

At the same congress, the International Olympic Committee warned that the existing structure of European sports is under threat by self-interest and pure commercialism. 

“It is challenged by a purely profit-driven approach that ignores the... social values of sports and real needs in the post-coronavirus world,” IOC President Thomas Bach said.

Football’s saviour?

There have been few voices that have backed the breakaway league, with owners of the 12 teams conspicuous by their absence.

The first senior figure of any club involved to publicly talk about the move was Perez – the new chairman of the Super League – who said football needed to evolve and adapt to the times. 

“Whenever there is a change, there are always people who oppose it... and we are doing this to save football at this critical moment,” Perez said on the Spanish TV show El Chiringuito de Jugones.

“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.”

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said he will not comment on the proposal.

“I’m not here to talk about that,” Zidane told a news conference ahead of today’s trip to Cadiz in La Liga.

Meanwhile, the German Football Association (DFB) yesterday demanded the suspension of the 12 clubs until they reconsider.

“The clubs and their youth teams should be banned from all competitions until they think of their many supporters who have made them into top clubs in the world in the first place, and not only of their purses,” DFB President Fritz Keller said on the official DFB Twitter account.

Further UK action planned

Premier League clubs were meeting yesterday without the ‘Big Six’ who have joined the breakaway Super League. The meeting was expected to decide on a strategy to be taken by the remaining 14 clubs to protect the league and their interests.

Everton, currently eighth in the Premier League and in with a chance of securing Champions League football for next season, slammed the move of “preposterous arrogance” which was tarnishing the reputation of England’s top-flight. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also keen to speak to other countries who are involved, his spokesman said yesterday. 

Asked whether the Prime Minister was planning to meet with his Spanish and Italian counterparts on the matter, the spokesman said: “We are keen to speak to everyone involved in this, from other countries too.”

“We are fairly unequivocal that we don’t want this to go ahead in the current form so we would welcome any club that wants to step back from this approach,” he added, describing reports that some clubs were planning to step back as “speculation”.