England’s “big six” football clubs have been condemned after they agreed to join a new breakaway European Super League.
Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur are among 12 clubs signed up to the ESL, which will rival Uefa’s Champions League.
The six English clubs have already faced ire from football authorities, fans and pundits since the announcement was made on Sunday evening.
There have been calls for all six to be deducted domestic points or even be relegated from the Premier League.
The six English clubs have been joined by three from Spain – Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid – and three from Italy – AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus.
Three more teams are anticipated to sign up as founding members of the controversial league, which would start in August each year with 20 teams.
A joint statement read: “Twelve of Europe’s leading football clubs have today come together to announce they have agreed to establish a new midweek competition, the Super League, governed by its founding clubs.
“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.”
The Premier League, Uefa and world football governing body Fifa have all condemned the move, saying the competition was unsanctioned and clubs and players risked bans by being involved.
FIFA said: “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 distribution.
“FIFA can only express its disapproval to a ‘closed European breakaway league’ outside of the international football structures and not respecting the aforementioned principles.”
Uefa, the Football Associations of England, Spain and Italy, plus the Premier League, LaLiga and Serie A, said they would use all available means to stop the “cynical project”.
A joint statement read: “We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way.
“As previously announced by Fifa and the six federations, the clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams.”
In its own statement, the FA added the plan was “damaging to English and European football at all levels” and would “attack the principles of open competition and sporting merit which are fundamental to competitive sport”.
The Premier League also warned it would have a “deeply damaging impact”.
Boris Johnson said: “Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action.
“They would strike at the heart of the domestic game, and will concern fans across the country.
“The clubs involved must answer to their fans and the wider footballing community before taking any further steps.”
Sky Sports pundit and former Manchester United and England player Gary Neville said the clubs should be relegated from the Premier League.
“I am a Manchester United fan and have been for 40 years but I am disgusted, absolutely disgusted,” he said.
“It is an absolute disgrace. Honestly, we have to wrestle back power in this country from the clubs at the top of this league, and that includes my club.
“The motivation is greed. Deduct them all points tomorrow, put them at the bottom of the league and take the money off them. Seriously, you have got to stamp on this.
“It is criminal. It is a criminal act against football fans in this country. Deduct points, deduct money and punish them.
“Relegate Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal. Those three clubs, with their history in this country, are the ones that should suffer the most.”
On Monday, junior housing minister Christopher Pincher told Sky News: “Our concern is for the fans, that they have the best possible sporting experience that they possibly can, that they’re able to support their team.
“And we don’t want to see a footballing elite, which is by the elite, for the elite, of the elite – we want to make sure grassroots sport is supported and that fans are able to enjoy the kind of experience they’ve had over the past several years.”
Former FA and Manchester City chairman David Bernstein said on BBC Radio Four on Monday: “I’m ashamed. I’ve supported Manchester City all my life. It’s a club I love.
“It’s a lifeline that I think’s only going to end, if it happens at all, very badly.
“Because a closed league, as they’re proposing, without promotion and relegation, without recognition of the rest of the game, is potentially a dead league.
“It won’t have the life of football as we understand it. I think the arrogance of these half a dozen English clubs is something to behold.”
Bernstein said the breakaway clubs were driven by “greed” and “desperation”.
He said: “Some of these clubs have incurred enormous debt. I think they’re in a desperate situation.
“One of the things they haven’t done during the pandemic is to impose some sort of wages control. They’ve got themselves into a bit of a predicament.”
Read more: How will the European Super League work?
Watch: Six English clubs join breakaway European Super League