Manchester United part ways with European Club Association

European Super League: Manchester United part ways with the European Club Association as the Premier League 'big six' edge closer to new league

Manchester United part ways with the European Club Association (Old Trafford) - Photo by Jake Stokes.

Manchester United have become the first English team to part ways with the European Club Association amidst the controversial European Super League announcement.

The Red Devils’ vice-chairman Ed Woodward has also stepped down from his UEFA roles following the club’s decision to take part in the new ESL competition, along with several other big-name European teams.

Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur have also agreed to join, alongside Spanish giants Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid and Italian sides Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan.

It is also expected that three further sides are to join the ESL ahead of the inaugural season. But PSG, Porto, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are among the leading clubs that have said no.

United’s decision to leave the European Club Association, which represents the 246 leading clubs across Europe, comes the morning after the ESL plans were announced.

The new league, which will be a ‘new mid-week competition’ governed by the ESL’s founding clubs, has proved controversial since it was revealed last night. Here is your ESL briefing.

What is the European Super League?

The newly announced competition will consist of 20 clubs with 15 founding clubs and a qualifying system for five further teams to qualify annually based on ‘achievements’ in the prior season.

The ESL is proposed to be a mid-week group competition – consisting of two groups of ten – starting in August allowing clubs to continue participation in the respective national domestic leagues, despite the backlash by FIFA, UEFA and the uniting football associations.

Each side will play home and away fixtures, with the top three from each group qualifying for the ESL quarter finals. Teams finishing fourth and fifth will then compete in a two-legged play-off for a quarter-final space.

There will then be a two-leg knockout up until the final which will then be hosted as a traditional final; neutral ground and single fixture.

Why has the ESL be created?

In a statement released by the European Super League, it stated that the ESL was founded to ‘enhance value and support for the benefit of the entire European football pyramid’, however there was been a backlash arguing the opposite.

The Super League added there is a ‘need to provide higher-quality matches’ due to stakeholders’ growing financial concerns.

It stated: “The formation of the Super League comes at a time when the global pandemic has accelerated the instability in the existing European football economic model.

“Further, for a number of years, the founding clubs have had the objective of improving the quality and intensity of existing European competitions throughout each season, and of creating a format for top clubs and players to compete on a regular basis.

“The pandemic has shown that a strategic vision and a sustainable commercial approach are required to enhance value and support for the benefit of the entire European football pyramid.

“In recent months extensive dialogue has taken place with football stakeholders regarding the future format of European competitions.

“The founding clubs believe the solutions proposed following these talks do not solve fundamental issues, including the need to provide higher-quality matches and additional financial resources for the overall football pyramid.”

Why are fans are so annoyed?

Joel Glazer, the co-chairman of Manchester United and vice-chairman of the newly proposed ESL, released a statement regarding the new competition claiming that it will offer ‘greater financial support for the wider football pyramid’.

He said: “By bringing together the world’s greatest clubs and players to play each other throughout the season, the Super League will open a new chapter for European football, ensuring world-class competition and facilities, and increased financial support for the wider football pyramid.”

FIFA’s Reaction

FIFA have since responded to the announcement regarding the Super League with a statement:

“In view of several media requests and as already stated several times, FIFA wishes to clarify that it stands firm in favour of solidarity in football and an equitable redistribution model which can help develop football as a sport, particularly at global level, since the development of global football is the primary mission of FIFA.

“In our view, and in accordance with our statutes, any football competition, whether national, regional or global, should always reflect the core principles of solidarity, inclusivity, integrity and equitable financial redistribution.

“Moreover, the governing bodies of football should employ all lawful, sporting and diplomatic means to ensure this remains the case. Against this background, FIFA can only express its disapproval to a “closed European breakaway league” outside of the international football structures and not respecting the aforementioned principles.

“FIFA always stands for unity in world football and calls on all parties involved in heated discussions to engage in calm, constructive and balanced dialogue for the good of the game and in the spirit of solidarity and fair play. FIFA will, of course, do whatever is necessary to contribute to a harmonised way forward in the overall interests of football.”