FIFA President Gianni Infantino warns breakaway clubs that they must 'live with the consequences'
Published Tuesday, April 20, 2021 9:49AM EDT
Twelve elite football clubs intent on forming a new European Super League are facing a concerted backlash from the sport's governing bodies over their plan.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino strongly condemned the ESL on Tuesday, telling clubs -- dubbed football's "Dirty Dozen" -- involved in the proposed breakaway that they must "live with the consequences."
Speaking at the UEFA Congress, Infantino says world football's governing body "strongly disapproves" of the new league and urged clubs to think carefully about their next move.
"There is a lot to throw away for maybe a short-term financial gain of sorts," said Infantino.
"They need to reflect and need to assume responsibility. They need to think not only of their shareholders, which are important of course, but they need to think of all the people.
"All the fans, of all those which have contributed to create what European football is today. What European football clubs are today."
The Swiss stopped short of confirming whether players taking part in the proposed competition would be banned from FIFA's World Cup competition but hinted there would be repercussions.
"If some elect to go their own way, then they must live with the consequences of their choice," added Infantino, who was UEFA General Secretary between 2009 and 2016.
"They are responsible for their choice, Concretely, this means, either you are in or you are out. You cannot be half in, half out."
The ESL's announcement on Sunday has resulted in widespread criticism, with fans, players and even politicians concerned the new competition would rip the heart out of football as we currently know it.
The league will ultimately consist of 20 teams and be governed by the founding clubs themselves. There would be no promotion or relegation from the league, with only five qualification places available each year.
The new structure would all but end competition at the highest level and would make it almost impossible for smaller teams to break into Europe's elite, shattering the sport's long-standing ethos.
Infantino urged the 12 breakaway clubs to have "respect" for European football and its long history.
"This is the magic of football, this bond from the bottom to the top and look at the success of the top," he said.
"I've been working very hard and investing a big part of my life to defend the principles and the values which have given this success to the European football.
"We hope, of course, that everything will go back to normal, that everything will be settled but always, always with respect.
"Always acting responsibly and always with solidarity and always in the interest of national, European and global football."
PREMIER LEAGUE REJECTS PROPOSAL
UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin thanked Infantino for his support at the European organization's Congress.
On Monday, Ceferin told CNN Sport that the "shameless" new plans were akin to taking "football hostage."
UEFA had voted to approve an expanded and restructured Champions League tournament which it had hoped would stop the breakaway clubs from forming a new competition.
Ceferin said he has been reassured last week that UEFA's new plans would be enough and was surprised to hear of the announcement on Sunday.
"I was a criminal lawyer for years and I've met many tricky people that I've represented but I've never seen something like that. Ethics doesn't exist in the group," Ceferin added.
"It's hard for me to call it Super League because it's all but super."
UEFA is currently taking legal advice in relation to potentially banning the 12 clubs from domestic and European competitions.
Meanwhile, the English Premier League held a meeting with clubs on Tuesday, without the six teams who have signed up for the ESL.
It subsequently released a statement rejecting the new proposals and called on those breakaway clubs to reconsider their decision immediately.
"The 14 clubs at the meeting unanimously and vigorously rejected the plans for the competition," it read.
"The Premier League is considering all actions available to prevent it from progressing, as well as holding those Shareholders involved to account under its rules."
It added: "The Premier League would like to thank supporters and all stakeholders for the support they have shown this week on this significant issue. The reaction proves just how much our open pyramid and football community means to people."
Ahead of the meeting, Everton released a blistering statement which criticized Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester Untied, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham for signing up to the new format.
"Everton is saddened and disappointed to see proposals of a breakaway league pushed forward by six clubs," read a statement from the club's board.
"Six clubs acting entirely in their own interests. Six clubs tarnishing the reputation of our league and the game. Six clubs choosing to disrespect every other club with whom they sit around the Premier League table. Six clubs taking for granted and even betraying the majority of football supporters across our country and beyond.
"At this time of national and international crisis -- and a defining period for our game -- clubs should be working together collaboratively with the ideals of our game and its supporters uppermost.
"Instead, these clubs have been secretly conspiring to break away from a football pyramid that has served them so well."
'NO ACTION IS OFF THE TABLE'
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has publicly denounced the ESL in its current form and said on Tuesday that his government was exploring ways of stopping it.
Johnson and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden have also met with representatives from the English Football Association, the Premier League and fan groups to discuss the new plans.
"He [Johnson] expressed his solidarity with football fans and agreed they must always be at the heart of any decisions about the future of the game," Downing Street said in a statement.
"He reiterated his unwavering support for the football authorities and confirmed they have the government's full backing to take whatever action necessary to put a stop to these plans.
"He was clear that no action is off the table and the government is exploring every possibility, including legislative options, to ensure these proposals are stopped."