The European Super League has been officially suspended after all six English clubs formally withdrew from the ill-fated venture.
On another dramatic night when Chelsea fans staged a mass protest outside Stamford Bridge before their Premier League clash with Brighton, Manchester City and Chelsea began the process of killing off the rebel league less than 48 hours after its launch by pulling out late in the afternoon, putting huge pressure on the other 10 founder members to follow suit, as they held crisis talks over their exit strategies.
No sooner had they thrown in the towel than Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, one of the architects of the new rebel movement, sensationally announced his resignation. And, before the night was through, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham had followed suit.
A statement from the League then followed, in which it confirmed it ‘shall reconsider the most appropriate steps to reshape the project’.
The match, which ended goalless but was almost an irrelevence, was delayed after hundreds of fans protested about their club’s involvement outside Stamford Bridge. The astonishing developments appeared to kill off the planned new league at birth, with strong indications from Spain last night that Barcelona and Atletico Madrid were also quitting.
Reportedly all the clubs could face substantial financial penalties for pulling out as the ESL contract signed last week. Yet all concluded that taking an economic hit was a price worth paying for limiting the damage to their reputation.
Pep Guardiola was fuming about the ESL plans yesterday before it was announced his club was pulling out.
‘It is not a sport if success is already guaranteed,’ the City boss said.
‘When it doesn’t matter whether you lose, when the relation between effort and reward does not exist. It’s business, it’s money. It is not fair. You have to play the competitions that you deserve to play.
‘Everyone can complain… Ajax, Sevilla, Leicester, West Ham. It’s normal. I would be the same.
‘Why haven’t they (the ESL board) clarified the reasons for their decisions? Come out and explain. It’s unfair for the managers and players to respond to this. Liverpool go to Leeds and Jurgen (Klopp) and the players are criticised. We are not involved. They have to clarify. Go out and explain it.’
The speed of events represents a humiliation for the league’s chairman Florentino Perez, and the American owners of Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, who were key to the project.
The incredible events vindicate the stance taken by the rest of the Premier League, who in a meeting of the other 14 clubs yesterday opted to lobby the rebels into pulling out of the ESL rather than punishing them immediately.
UEFA were also celebrating a huge victory last night, with the speed of the rebels’ collapse obliterating any leverage they might have had in opposing the governing body’s planned Champions League reforms.