Executives from clubs which sparked a civil war in English football by joining the now-abandoned European Super League have been handed an ultimatum to step down from key Premier League sub-committees.
Sky News has learned Richard Masters, the Premier League chief executive, contacted executives on Wednesday including Bruce Buck, the Chelsea chairman, and Vinai Venkatesham, Arsenal chief executive, to request they relinquish their roles on the working groups.
Club sources said Mr Buck, who is a member of the Premier League’s audit and remuneration committee, and Mr Venkatesham, who sits on the Club Strategic Advisory Group (CSAG), had been asked by Mr Masters to step down voluntarily or face being removed against their will.
Ferran Soriano, who runs Manchester City, was also asked to step down from CSAG, according to insiders.
The Premier League is also seeking the removal of the Manchester United and Liverpool executives Ed Woodward and Tom Werner from its Club Broadcast Advisory Group, the sources added.
Tottenham Hotspur, the sixth club involved in the planned defection, is not thought to be represented on the affected Premier League committees. The request from Mr Masters underlines the potentially protracted consequences of the ‘Big Six’ clubs’ efforts to join a continental league, which would have resulted in England’s six biggest clubs each receiving windfalls worth hundreds of millions of pounds.
All six withdrew from the new competition on Tuesday following a vitriolic backlash from fans, players and coaches, and the threat of sporting and legislative sanctions from football federations and governments.
Mr Woodward announced on Tuesday evening his long tenure at Old Trafford would come to an end later this year, triggering speculation the Glazer family may seek to sell its remaining stake in the club after more than 15 years.
The Premier League’s request to the executives to step down from key working groups followed a meeting between the 14 other ‘shareholders’, in which they expressed bitterness at the duplicity of the clubs which had been in secret talks to join the Super League.
The Daily Mail reported some of the 14 clubs had complained the Super League clubs executives had been “acting like spies” during meetings of the relevant Premier League sub-committees.
At least one of the club executives asked to step down on Wednesday is said to have reacted angrily to the suggestion.
Mr Masters is understood to have sought a voluntary decision from the ‘Big Six’ executives but warned they risked being forcibly removed from the working groups if they did not agree to step down.
Premier League executives are ultimately keen to heal the rifts which have simmered in recent months over potential reforms but which erupted into open warfare at the weekend.
However, Mr Masters’ request for the executives’ removal underlines the fact that divisions between the ‘Big Six’ and the other clubs are likely to be exposed for some time.
After Sky News revealed details of the Super League negotiations last October, Mr Woodward told Wall Street analysts he was unaware of the project and his attention was focused on reforming existing European club competitions.
Formal confirmation of the Super League’s existence on Sunday night sparked fury throughout European football, with an unprecedented alignment of political and sporting figures against the breakaway from UEFA.
A Premier League spokeswoman declined to comment on Wednesday.
Henry, Glazer and Soriano apologise for Super League involvement
Liverpool owner John W Henry was the first of those involved in plans to form a breakaway Super League to apologise.
In a video message on Wednesday morning, Henry – who bought the club in 2010 – took responsibility for the decision to join the Super League and admitted he had ‘let down’ the fans.
He said: “I want to apologise to all the fans and supporters of Liverpool Football Club for the disruption I caused over the past 48 hours.
“It goes without saying but should be said that the project put forward was never going to stand without the support of the fans. No one ever thought differently in England. Over these 48 hours, you were very clear that it would not stand. We heard you. I heard you.”
Later on Wednesday, United co-chairman Joel Glazer “apologised unreservedly for the unrest” caused by the Super League, in an open letter to fans.
Glazer, who was unveiled as Super League vice-chairman when the bombshell announcement was made on Sunday, admits he and the rest of United’s owners “got it wrong” and are now focused on making amends.
In a rare moment of communication with the supporters, Glazer wrote: “Although the wounds are raw and I understand that it will take time for the scars to heal, I am personally committed to rebuilding trust with our fans and learning from the message you delivered with such conviction.
“We continue to believe that European football needs to become more sustainable throughout the pyramid for the long-term. However, we fully accept that the Super League was not the right way to go about it.
“In seeking to create a more stable foundation for the game, we failed to show enough respect for its deep-rooted traditions – promotion, relegation, the pyramid – and for that we are sorry.”
Manchester City chief executive Ferran Soriano wrote to the club’s supporters to apologise for their involvement in European Super League proposals.
In an email sent out on Wednesday, Soriano wrote: “As always, when we make choices and decisions, we do so with the best interests of the club in mind and we believed that being part of such an initiative could give us a voice that might be imperative to our future ability to succeed and grow.
“In making that choice we failed to remind ourselves of the unbreakable link between the passion of our fans and the right to have the opportunity to earn success.
“It is a truth that is fundamental to the DNA of Manchester City and the board deeply regrets taking a decision that lost sight of the historic values of the club.
“We made a mistake and we sincerely apologise to our fans for the disappointment, frustration and anguish caused by the last 72 hours.”
Podcast Special: Fans 1-0 Not-so-Super League
High-powered, heavily-funded and years in the making, it lasted barely two days.
In a podcast special, Jasper Taylor is joined by Gerard Brand and Ron Walker to discuss the rapid break-up of the breakaway European Super League.
The panel discuss why football is more than just a business or entertainment sport, how this was a fan victory we should celebrate, and what the future holds for football.
We also hear from Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher, Kaveh Solhekol and Bryan Swanson on another monumental 48 hours.