The football club owners and chief executives behind the plot to join a new Super League and change the game forever may have first begun talks over three-and-a-half years ago.
Liverpool owner John Henry and Arsenal chief Ivan Gazidis met with Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and club-owning Glazer brothers Avram and Joel for discussions in one of New York’s most popular restaurants in broad daylight in October 2017.
They are the men who have sat in silence while the football world reacts in horror at their plans to upend the competitive spirit of the sport once and for all.
At the time, Sportsmail reported how television rights could well have been on the agenda of their meeting. Those three sides had been agitating for a greater slice of the pie.
Instead of splitting the income equally between 20 Premier League teams, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United wanted a model similar to Spain, where Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid – coincidentally also founder members of the Super League – get a bigger payout than the rest of the LaLiga teams.
They had dinner together in Italian restaurant Locanda Verde in the trendy Tribeca district and at the time seemed the most unlikely of companions, given the fierce rivalry between their three clubs.
Fast forward nearly four years and the football fans in Britain and beyond have reacted in uniform horror at the Super League proposals – the fear of what will happen to the game transcending any rivalry on the pitch.
These owners, however, have come together and Joel Glazer was quoted by rival clubs explaining how the Super League was moving forward. Messrs Henry, Glazer and Woodward don’t have too many other friends to turn to but they clearly have each other.
Gazidis, meanwhile, has since departed Arsenal and is now an executive at AC Milan in Italy, who are also a Super League founder member.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has slammed the billionaire ‘snakes’ and ‘liars’ behind the new Super League and it has been revealed that Boris Johnson will meet the FA, Premier League, the PFA and fans today as he vowed to give the £4.3billion breakaway competition ‘the red card’.
The Prime Minister described the new midweek competition, which includes leading English clubs United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal among the founders receiving up to £300million each when it starts, as ‘ludicrous’.
Mr Johnson will hold an emergency meeting with officials and lawyers amid mounting and extreme fury over the plans, with Prince William, President of the FA, warning the proposals could ‘damage the game we love’.
As outraged fans of the breakaway teams threatened to overthrow the mainly-foreign billionaire owners of their clubs, and rival supporters set fire to their kits outside football grounds, the Prime Minister weighed in having vowed to ‘do everything’ to stop it.
At the time the picture was taken in 2017, Arsenal said Gazidis was in New York to see owner Stan Kroenke and it had been a dinner to discuss NFL meetings.
United said Woodward was catching up with the Glazers around the same NFL talks, while Henry was there for the ‘common interests’ of the Premier League.
It isn’t a stretch to assume they’ve seen a lot more of each other in the time that followed, albeit not in plain sight to the public.
ARE TWO OF THE DIRTY DOZEN LOSING THEIR NERVE ALREADY?
Chelsea and Manchester City appear to hold the greatest hopes of derailing the controversial European Super League, with club bosses believed to be ‘losing their nerve’ amid mounting pressure from fans and Government.
Six teams from the Premier League, including Chelsea and Man City, signed up to the breakaway competition over the weekend as part of 12 founding teams.
Sportsmail’s Oliver Holt suggested overnight, following a wave of criticism from supporters and senior Government figures, that two English teams were ‘wavering’ in their commitment to the breakaway.
Chelsea and Manchester City are believed to be the least committed of the six English teams and pressure is continuing to increase for them to make a statement of intent by walking away.
Complications could arise, however, after Real Madrid president, and the chairman of the European Super League, Florentino Perez insists the 12 clubs who signed up have agreed to a ‘binding’ contract that prevents them from reneging on their decision.
Banners were put up outside the stadiums of the Big Six on Monday, accusing them of ‘killing football’ and saying the beautiful game had been ‘created by the poor and stolen by the rich’. The clubs involved are said to have signed 23-year contracts tying them in until at least 2046.
Ceferin turned on club leaders he called ‘snakes’ and ‘liars,’ singling out Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli and Manchester United vice chairman Woodward for betraying him by reneging on a pledge to stick with the Champions League.
Ceferin, who is godfather of Mr Agnelli’s daughter, said: ‘They don’t know s*** about solidarity. They spit in the face of football lovers. We didn’t know we had snakes working close to us, but now we know’.
UEFA’s executive committee member Jesper Moller said last night that they are looking at whether Real Madrid, Manchester City and Chelsea could be banned from this season’s Champions League semi-finals by the end of the week.
Ex-England captain and now owner of Major League Soccer franchise, David Beckham, has warned that fans will be the ones to suffer if plans go ahead.
‘I’m someone who loves football. It has been my life for as long as I can remember. I loved it from when I was a young child as a fan, and I’m still a fan now. As a player and now as an owner I know that our sport is nothing without the fans. We need football to be for everyone. We need football to be fair and we need competitions based on merit. Unless we protect these values the game we love is in danger…’ he wrote on Instagram.
Insiders say fissures are said to be beginning to show with two of the six English clubs said to be wavering. Gary Neville predicted that Manchester City could be the closest to ‘cracking’, but that his former club Manchester United will hold on because their American billionaire owner Joel Glazer is one of the architects.
There was also open opposition from Liverpool’s manager and players about the plans after the club drew 1-1 with Leeds United last night. Leeds added fuel to the fire by wearing T-shirts emblazoned with ‘For the Fans’ before kick off. Supporters also blocked the team coach as it arrived in West Yorkshire.
Manager Jurgen Klopp underlined his stance against the Super League – a position he has long held – while captain on the night James Milner also offered a withering rebuttal, saying ‘I don’t like, I hope it doesn’t happen’. The silence from Boston, where Henry and his Fenway Sports Group company are based, has been deafening.
Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher, a pundit on Sky Sports, hit out at Henry and FSG and warned them that if the club’s involvement forces Klopp to leave, there would be dire consequences for the American owners.
‘The biggest thing is that everyone’s against it tonight. Jurgen Klopp spoke about this in 2019 and made his stance very clear,’ Carragher said. ‘If Liverpool lose their manager on the back of this in the next 12 months, then the owners will be run out of that club in a week. I can assure you of that.
‘It hurts me more because this ownership bought Liverpool on the back of other American owners who ran the club badly and the fans got them out.
‘These [owners] got the club for a steal. It is now six or seven times bigger, they’ve made their money and they won the lottery with Liverpool.’
Meanwhile at United, one of their star men in Portugal international Bruno Fernandes tentatively broke ranks on Monday night by commenting ‘Dreams can’t be buy’ on an Instagram post from Wolverhampton’s Daniel Podence which was speaking out against the Super League proposals.
‘And like Carragher, United legend Gary Neville also blasted the Glazer ownership during his appearance on Monday Night Football.
‘I feel slightly complicit,’ Neville said. ‘I have stayed pretty quiet over the Glazer family over the years, but I cannot live with attacking every single football fan in this country.
‘They have stepped over the mark. They are scavengers and they need booting out of this football club and this country. We have got to come together now, some might say it is too late, but it is never too late. We have got to stop this. It is absolutely critical we do.’
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez will be the new Super League president and the 74-year-old spoke out on Monday night to defend the competition.
‘Many important clubs in Spain, Italy and the UK want to find a solution to a very bad financial situation,’ Perez said to El Chiringuito in Spain.
‘The only way is to play more competitive games. If instead of playing the Champions League, the Super League helps the clubs to recover the lost earnings.
‘Here at Real Madrid we’ve lost a lot of money, we are all going through a very bad situation. When there is no profit, the only way is to play more competitive games during the week. The Super League will save clubs financially.
‘PSG were not invited, as of today. We haven’t even spoken to German clubs. We are now 12 clubs, we want to become 15 clubs. If PSG and Bayern Munich refuse, the Super League competition will not be cancelled. This is bulls***.
‘Football must evolve like everything in life. Football has to adapt to the times we live in now. Football is losing interest from fans, TV rights are decreasing. We wanted to do the Super League, the pandemic has given us urgency, and right now we are all ruined in football.
‘Even in the Premier League, if the top clubs are economically stronger, all the other clubs will also become stronger. It is a consequence. We want a dialogue with UEFA as we proposed in the Super League, we want to save football.
‘This Super League is not for the rich, but it’s to save football. If this continues, football will disappear and by 2024 we would already be dead. This is the only way to save everyone: big, medium and small clubs.’
EVERTON DIRECTORS SAVAGE THE ‘SELF-PROCLAIMED SUPER SIX’ FOR THEIR ‘PREPOSTEROUS ARROGANCE’
Everton have issued a withering response to the plans for a European Super League that have plunged football across the continent into chaos.
Issuing a statement on Tuesday morning, the Merseyside club said: ‘Everton is saddened and disappointed to see proposals of a breakaway league pushed forward by six clubs.
‘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. And in that Pyramid Everton salutes EVERY club, be it Leicester City, Accrington Stanley, Gillingham, Lincoln City, Morecambe, Southend United, Notts County and the rest who have, with their very being, enriched the lives of their supporters throughout the game’s history. And vice versa.
‘The self-proclaimed Super Six appear intent on disenfranchising supporters across the game – including their own – by putting the very structure that underpins the game we love under threat. The backlash is understandable and deserved – and has to be listened to.
‘This preposterous arrogance is not wanted anywhere in football outside of the clubs that have drafted this plan. On behalf of everyone associated with Everton, we respectfully ask that the proposals are immediately withdrawn and that the private meetings and subversive practices that have brought our beautiful game to possibly its lowest ever position in terms of trust end now.
‘Finally we would ask the owners, chairmen, and Board members of the six clubs to remember the privileged position they hold – not only as custodians of their clubs but also custodians of the game. The responsibility they carry should be taken seriously.
‘We urge them all to consider what they wish their legacy to be.’
Liverpool, Everton’s neighbours and rivals, are among the six founder clubs along with Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea.
The remaining teams in Europe to try and bring the competition to life are AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.
Former Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon isn’t a fan of the club’s involvement in the new Super League.