EPL

Premier League ‘Big Six’ distance themselves from joining European Super League

By Sports Desk December 22, 2023

The Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ have all now distanced themselves from the possibility of joining any new European Super League.

Arsenal became the last of the clubs who joined the original Super League in 2021 to confirm their position on Friday.

The Gunners issued a statement saying they will continue in UEFA competitions despite a European Court of Justice ruling which has at least opened the possibility of a club-led tournament to rival the Champions League being launched.

Liverpool have not commented directly since Thursday’s ruling but the PA news agency understands legal consent on the issue of joining new competitions has rested with the recognised supporters’ trust, the Spirit of Shankly (SoS), since the Reds’ withdrawal from the Super League two years ago.

SoS’ statement on Thursday said Liverpool’s position had not changed since 2021. Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham all issued statements on Thursday pledging commitment to UEFA competitions.

The original Super League plan fell apart within 72 hours, as the English clubs withdrew one by one amid fan protests, pressure from the British Government and opposition from UEFA and FIFA.

The company behind the original project, A22, announced details for new “open and meritocratic” men’s and women’s competitions within hours of the ECJ ruling on Thursday morning. In the men’s competition, 64 teams would be involved with 20 places available each year to teams based on their domestic performance.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin mocked the proposals and said the format was “even more closed” than the one put forward in 2021, but A22 founder John Hahn told PA the principles of relegation and promotion were in line with domestic competitions across UEFA’s 55 member associations.

Real Madrid and Barcelona, key supporters of the 2021 project, are on board. Juventus and AC Milan, two of the other 12 involved, have not commented yet but Inter Milan have strongly rejected it, so too Spanish side Atletico Madrid.

The president of Italian champions Napoli, Aurelio De Laurentiis, said his club was ready to hold talks over the new project. Napoli were not part of the 2021 project.

Ceferin said “football was not for sale” at a press conference on Thursday, which significantly featured executives from all the key stakeholder groups – clubs, leagues, players and fans.

Clubs have gained considerable concessions since 2021 – a new Champions League format starting next season featuring more matches, and the scope for even more in the future, and the establishment of a joint venture between clubs and UEFA to control commercial matters linked to the Champions League and other club competitions.

The ruling on Thursday clearly empowers clubs, but in the short term may be the catalyst for further reform in their favour rather than revolution.

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    Defeat to Crystal Palace last weekend saw Klopp’s side drop to third as Manchester City moved into a two-point lead at the top of the table.

    But with results faltering, the performance by Alexander-Arnold in the Europa League win over Atalanta, particularly in the first half, has offered renewed hope.

    The defender was making his first start since mid-February after a knee injury and, while Jota has yet to have the same impact in three relatively short substitute appearances after a similar two-month lay-off, the clinical nature of his game could offset some of the deficiencies currently being experienced by his fellow forwards.

    “We need Trent Alexander-Arnold, of course, but we need him in a really good shape and form and that’s what he has to get up to,” said Klopp ahead of the trip to Fulham.

    “It’s not about him and it’s not his fault if he wouldn’t be, it’s just the situation. So how quick can we get him rolling if you want – the same for Diogo.

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    Klopp remains positive about their chances despite recent failures and feels six wins could see them snatch the title from the grasp of their rivals.

    Although a Europa League exit on aggregate was disappointing there were positives to take from the game.

    Alexander-Arnold’s display, drifting infield to dictate play and even popping up in the centre-forward’s position on occasions in Bergamo, was one and a first clean sheet in 10 matches was another.

    With struggles up front continuing – Liverpool have scored only two goals in the opening 15 minutes in a league game this season – a more solid backline offers a better platform and that is why Klopp is optimistic.

    “I don’t have a lot of qualities but I am always completely honest. If I don’t feel great the players feel it pretty quickly,” he said.

    “I cannot really deny or just keep it under the carpet so that means after the game against Palace people ask ‘What do you tell the team now?’.

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