PL clubs to meet without ‘Big Six’ over Super League

The Premier League will meet on Tuesday without Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Tottenham who have agreed to join a breakaway European Super League.

A virtual meeting, chaired by Premier League CEO Richard Masters, will be attended by the 14 clubs who are not involved in the newly-announced League.

A statement on Sunday indicated that six Premier League clubs will be joined in the League by AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus, and Real Madrid. Three more clubs could join for the inaugural season which will commence “as soon as practicable”.

The new format has been put forward as a rival to the UEFA Champions League, not as a replacement to domestic leagues, but there are fears it could have wider ramifications.

UEFA, in a joint statement with FA, Premier League, La Liga, and Serie A, blasted the plans and did not rule out taking legal action over the proposals, insisting players involved would be banned from all other competitions at domestic, European or world level and could be prevented from representing their national teams.

Aleksander Ceferin, the president of European football’s governing body, has slammed the ESL concept and the 12 sides involved, strongly condemning the “disgraceful” proposals for a new European Super League as a “spit in the face of all football lovers”.

FIFA and the European Club Association (ECA) have also criticised the creation of a breakaway competition.










4:15

Kaveh Solhekol reports that some board members at the clubs which have agreed to join a breakaway European Super League are opposed to the plans

A statement from the European Super League read: “Twelve of Europe’s leading football clubs have today come together to announce they have agreed to establish a new mid-week competition, the Super League, governed by its Founding Clubs.

“AC Milan, Arsenal FC, Atlético de Madrid, Chelsea FC, FC Barcelona, FC Internazionale Milano, Juventus FC, Liverpool FC, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid CF and Tottenham Hotspur have all joined as Founding Clubs. It is anticipated that a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season, which is intended to commence as soon as practicable.

European Super League – latest developments

  • PM Boris Johnson says “we’ll do everything we can to make sure Super League does not go ahead”
  • Man Utd, Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan leave ECA
  • Man Utd executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward leaves UEFA roles
  • Juve chairman steps down as ECA chairman
  • American investment bank JP Morgan confirms it will finance competition
  • Supporters’ groups continue to speak out against plans
  • ECA board member tells SSN the 12 clubs have left the organisation
  • La Liga condemns elitist breakaway which threatens rest of Spanish sport
  • PL CEO Richard Masters to host meeting with non-‘Big Six’ clubs on Tuesday
  • UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin furious over ESL plans
  • DCMS secretary Oliver Dowden to launch review into football governance

“Going forward, the Founding Clubs look forward to holding discussions with UEFA and FIFA to work together in partnership to deliver the best outcomes for the new League and for football as a whole.

“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.”

American investment bank JP Morgan has announced it will be financing the competition.

All six Premier League clubs have declined Sky Sports News’ invitation to respond to the story.

AP - Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli
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Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli has resigned from his role as chairman of the ECA

Manchester United have stood down from the European Club Association (ECA), which represents all 246 European clubs. It is the sole such body recognised by UEFA, and has member clubs in each UEFA member association.

United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has also stepped down from his UEFA roles. Serie A clubs Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan have also left the ECA.

Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli has also resigned as ECA chairman, a position he held since 2012, and left his post as member of the UEFA Executive Committee to take up the Super League vice-president role.

Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge says they have had no involvement in the plans and believes the competition would not solve the clubs’ financial problems.

He said in a statement on Monday: “We are convinced that the current structure in football guarantees a reliable foundation.

“FC Bayern welcomes the reforms of the Champions League because we believe they are the right step to take for the development of European football. The modified group stage will contribute to an increase in excitement and the emotional experience in the competition.

“I do not believe the Super League will solve the financial problems of European clubs that have arisen as result of the coronavirus pandemic. Rather, all clubs in Europe should work in solidarity to ensure that the cost structure, especially players’ salaries and agents’ fees, are brought in line with revenues, to make all of European football more rational.”

A Spurs fan holding a placard outside the club's training facility in protest against plans for a European Super League
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A Spurs fan holding a placard outside the club’s training facility in protest against plans for a European Super League

Borussia Dortmund chief executive, Hans-Joachim Watzke, says they vehemently reject all involvement in the plans for a breakaway league and are instead focused on reforming the Champions League.

The German Football Association backed the stance held by the national associations from England, Italy and Spain.

Competition Format

  • 20 participating clubs with 15 Founding Clubs and a qualifying mechanism for a further five teams to qualify annually based on achievements in the prior season.
  • Midweek fixtures with all participating clubs continuing to compete in their respective national leagues, preserving the traditional domestic match calendar which remains at the heart of the club game.
  • An August start with clubs participating in two groups of ten, playing home and away fixtures, with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for the quarter-finals.
  • Teams finishing fourth and fifth will then compete in a two-legged play-off for the remaining quarter-final positions. A two-leg knockout format will be used to reach the final at the end of May, which will be staged as a single fixture at a neutral venue.

“As soon as practicable after the start of the men’s competition, a corresponding women’s league will also be launched, helping to advance and develop the women’s game.

“The new annual tournament will provide significantly greater economic growth and support for European football via a long-term commitment to uncapped solidarity payments which will grow in line with league revenues.

“These solidarity payments will be substantially higher than those generated by the current European competition and are expected to be in excess of €10 billion during the course of the initial commitment period of the Clubs. In addition, the competition will be built on a sustainable financial foundation with all Founding Clubs signing up to a spending framework.

“In exchange for their commitment, Founding Clubs will receive an amount of €3.5 billion solely to support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic.”

European Super League – Financial details

  • Founding Clubs have signed a 23-year commitment to the new Super League
  • Legal advice to clubs is that it would be a breach of EU and UK competition law to deny a new entrant into the market
  • Clubs believe signing off at least €10BN in Solidarity Payments demonstrates their commitment to the wider game
  • Solidarity figure is higher than current distribution from UEFA and will equate to approximately 8% of their proposed revenue
  • Share of €3.5BN for each Founding Club cannot be spent on new signings and must only be used to support infrastructure plans and offset COVID-19 impact

Florentino Perez, president of Real Madrid and the first chairman of the Super League said: “We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world. Football is the only global sport in the world with more than four billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to their desires.”

Backing the new European league, Agnelli, chairman of Juventus and vice-chairman of the Super League said: “Our 12 Founder Clubs represent billions of fans across the globe and 99 European trophies.

“We have come together at this critical moment, enabling European competition to be transformed, putting the game we love on a sustainable footing for the long-term future, substantially increasing solidarity, and giving fans and amateur players a regular flow of headline fixtures that will feed their passion for the game while providing them with engaging role models.”

Joel Glazer, co-chairman of Manchester United and vice-chairman of the Super League 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.”

The agreement came on the eve of plans to introduce a new programme for the Champions League.

UEFA has announced a new format for the competition post-2024, which includes no more groups and all teams in one ranking. Every team will play 10 different opponents, home and away.

Ceferin has said it is still unclear whether the proposed breakaway clubs will be involved in the remainder of this season’s Champions League and Europa League. He says a legal assessment is ongoing and further talks will be held on Tuesday after the UEFA Congress.

European football’s governing body have also delayed making an announcement on host cities for Euro 2020 until Friday, in the wake of the fallout caused by the ESL statement that was released on Sunday.

Podcast special: European Super League explanation, reaction and ramifications

In a special podcast, Jasper Taylor sums up a seismic 24 hours in football after Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Tottenham agreed to join a breakaway European Super League, along with six other teams.

The reaction has been swift, damning, passionate and emotional to say the least. Hear from Gary Neville, Kaveh Solhekol, Bryan Swanson and more….

What has the reaction been to the proposed breakaway?

The proposed European Super League has, away from the clubs involved, been strongly condemned across football and beyond.

In a blistering response, UEFA released a joint statement, personally sanctioned by the governing body’s president Aleksander Ceferin, with the FA, Premier League, La Liga, and Serie A, as well as the Spanish and Italian football federations, which blasted the plans.

UEFA stressed that Europe’s top national football governing bodies and leagues will remain united in opposing the “cynical” initiative, and will use all methods available to them, including legal action, to prevent the scheme from being put into practice.

The FA has not ruled out taking legal action over the proposals and the governing body has indicated that it will block any requests from teams to join such a league.

Mohamed Salah, Ruben Dias
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Liverpool and Manchester City are two of the six English top-flight clubs involved in plans to launch a European Super League

The Premier League, and the organisation’s CEO Richard Masters, have condemned the concept, and Masters has written to all 20 clubs to indicate the League’s opposition to the project.

“We do not and cannot support such a concept,” Masters’ memo read. “This venture cannot be launched without English clubs and we call upon any club contemplating associating themselves or joining this venture to walk away immediately before irreparable damage is done”.

Under Premier League rules, which all clubs sign up to, a club needs “prior written approval” from the Premier League Board to enter another competition not including the Champions League, Europa League, EFL Cup, FA Cup, Community Shield, or competitions sanctioned by the county association of which it is a member.

FIFA has also criticised the creation of a new breakaway League, stating that the move is not in accordance with the governing body’s values, declaring: “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.”

La Liga said it “strongly condemns the recently published proposal for a breakaway, elitist European competition that attacks the principles of open competition and sporting merit which are at the heart of the domestic and European football pyramid”.

A statement from the European Club Association said it “strongly opposed” the “closed Super League model”.

Prince William, who is the current FA president, tweeted his displeasure towards the breakaway plans.

“Now, more than ever, we must protect the entire football community – from the top level to the grassroots – and the values of competition and fairness at its core,” he wrote.

“I share the concerns of fans about the proposed Super League and the damage it risks causing to the game we love. W.”

Politicians have also voiced their opposition to the proposals.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the breakaway League would be “very damaging for football” and vowed to do what he can for the proposals to not go through in their current format.



Gary Neville on breakaway plans








9:26

Gary Neville, Roy Keane and Micah Richards give their opinion on reports of plans for a breakaway European Super League. Sky Sports has contacted the clubs concerned for their responses

“We are going to look at everything that we can do with the football authorities to make sure that this doesn’t go ahead in the way that it’s currently being proposed.

“I don’t think that it’s good news for fans, I don’t think it’s good news for football in this country.

“These clubs are not just great global brands – of course they’re great global brands – they’re also clubs that have originated historically from their towns, from their cities, from their local communities, they should have a link with those fans, and with the fan base in their community.

“So it is very, very important that that continues to be the case. I don’t like the look of these proposals, and we’ll be consulted about what we can do”

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer has said it “risks shutting the door on fans for good”.

And the EU Parliament Sports Group – which represents 125 MEPs – has criticised the proposed League, saying that the proposals have “no other purpose than making profit”.

Department for Culture, Media and Sport Committee Chair Julian Knight described it as a “dark day for football” and called for a fan-led review with the “interests of community clubs at the heart” of future plans. The DCMS Committee will discuss the issue in a private session on Tuesday.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told the House of Commons: “We will not stand by and watch football be cravenly stripped of the things that make millions across the country love it.”

Dowden confirmed he had met with the Premier League and the FA to consider a “wide range of sanctions”, and added that a ‘Fan-led review’ will be launched immediately.

The review will examine football governance, financial sustainability in the men’s and women’s game, and the merit of an independent regulator regarding club ownership in English football.

UEFA: ESL plans ‘spit in the face of all football lovers’

Ceferin, speaking at a media briefing after Monday morning’s UEFA Executive Committee meeting, thanked UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson for his support in opposing the plans, which he has branded “nonsense”.

When asked if the proposals would stop any players from competing in Euro 2020, Ceferin said: “We’re still assessing the situation with our legal team. It’s a bit too early.

“We will take all the sanctions that we can and we will inform you as soon as we have a clear answer. My opinion is that, as soon as possible, the players have to be banned from all our competitions.



Aleksander Ceferin (AP)








1:27

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin says plans for a European Super League are ‘fuelled by greed above all else’.

He added: “I cannot stress more strongly UEFA and the footballing world are united against the disgraceful, self-serving proposals we have seen, fuelled purely by greed.

“It’s a nonsense of a project. This idea is a spit in the face for all footballer lovers and our society. We will not allow them to take this away from us.”

Ceferin said he was “naive, there are snakes close to us” over the Super League proposals.

He strongly criticised Manchester United executive vice-chair Ed Woodward, who has stepped down from his roles with UEFA alongside his club’s withdrawal from the European Club Association.

Ceferin said: “I was a criminal lawyer for 24 years but I’ve never, ever, seen people like that. If I start with Ed Woodward but he called me last Thursday, saying that he’s very satisfied with reforms and he fully supports them. Obviously he already signed something else.”

ECA board member: ‘Deceitfulness of the clubs involved is extraordinary’

An ECA board member has told Sky Sports News the 12 ESL breakaway clubs have “totally blindsided” the rest of European football with Sunday’s announcement.

They say the ECA Board met on Friday and agreed a mandate with UEFA to work together on plans to revamp the Champions League from 2024.

Juventus’ former ECA chairman Agnelli ratified the decision and chaired the meeting, at which Man Utd’s executive vice-chairman Woodward and Arsenal chief executive Vinai Venkatesham were both present.

The ECA board are meeting on Monday afternoon and are expected to meet daily to establish how to respond to the crisis.

The board member has said the development is “bizarre – the deceitfulness of the clubs involved is extraordinary, and reputations are no longer intact as a result of this”.

The European Super League – What we know now and what we still don’t know

What’s happened? Which clubs are involved? What’s been the reaction? How likely is it? What are the potential ramifications? What would be the format and who is financing it?

Read here

Neville: Deduct points off the six Premier League clubs

Before Sunday night’s official announcement, Super Sunday pundits Gary Neville, Roy Keane and Micah Richards gave their views on the proposed competition.

Sky Sports’ Gary Neville:

“I’m not against the modernisation of football competitions, we have the Premier League, we have the Champions League. But to bring forward proposals in the midst of COVID, in the midst of the economic crisis that exists for all clubs is an absolute scandal.

“United and the rest of the big six clubs that have signed up to it against the rest of the Premier League should be ashamed of themselves.

“European Super League? Are Arsenal in that? They have just drawn with Fulham, Manchester United are drawing with Burnley. I cannot concentrate on the game. To sign up to the Super League during a season is a joke, they should deduct points off all six of them.”

Sky Sports’ Roy Keane:

“It comes down to money, greed, it doesn’t sound good. Let’s hope it’s stopped in its tracks because it’s pure greed. We talk about the big clubs, Bayern Munich are one of the biggest in the world, at least they have made a stand, which is a start.”

Sky Sports’ Micah Richards:

“The Premier League has been run amazingly, and clubs are businesses and investments. But what happens to the fans, the memories of what the fans have had over the years? Are they to be forgotten about for the sake of money? That’s what football has become now, it’s an absolute disgrace.”

Let’

European Super League: The key questions

Six English teams are expected to be part of plans for a breakaway European Super League, but what do we know so far?

What has happened?

A group of 12 of Europe’s biggest clubs have signed up to a proposal to start a breakaway European Super League, according to Sky News.

The proposal involves the clubs forming their own competition to rival the UEFA Champions League.

Which clubs are involved?

The Premier League’s big-six clubs – Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham – are all involved.

Sky Sports News has contacted the six Premier League clubs for comment; Manchester United and Tottenham declined to give a response regarding the proposals.

The other clubs reported to have signed up for the proposal are Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan.

German giants Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are not included and nor are French champions Paris Saint-Germain.

What would the format be?

Those involved in the proposed breakaway may point to this being a mere ‘extra’ midweek fixture, though with an already-packed schedule, it is not as simple or straightforward as that.

The total number of teams involved and the exact format remains unclear, but it is widely considered that this is direct rival to the Champions League.

According to Sky News’ Mark Kleinman, “Plans have been in development for months. To be clear, this would not be a breakaway from each of Europe’s domestic leagues, but would be a midweek competition designed to usurp UEFA’s Champions League.

“There are expected to only be five places in this 20-strong competition available each year based on sporting merit.”

How would the league be financed?

About $5billion has been committed to this new project by the American bank JP Morgan.

What have the clubs said so far?

The clubs are yet to comment but a statement is expected on Sunday evening.

What has the reaction been?



Gary Neville on breakaway plans




9:26

Gary Neville, Roy Keane and Micah Richards give their opinion on reports of plans for a breakaway European Super League. Sky Sports has contacted the clubs concerned for their responses.

The plans have prompted widespread condemnation, with Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville labelling the English clubs involved a “disgrace” and calling for them to be sanctioned by the Premier League.

Governing bodies and leagues across Europe are viewing the proposal as an attempted power-grab.

The Premier League released a statement saying a super league would “destroy” the premise of open competition.

“Fans of any club in England and across Europe can currently dream that their team may climb to the top and play against the best,” said the statement.

“We believe that the concept of a European Super League would destroy this dream.”








3:01

Roy Keane and Micah Richards believe the announcement on the European Super League is down to pure greed and would be damaging to football across the board. 

UEFA was similarly critical in a joint-statement with the English Football Association, the Premier League, the Spanish FA, La Liga, the Italian FA and Serie A and threatened to ban participating clubs from their domestic competitions.

“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.

“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.”

Even Prime Minister Boris Johnson has had his say, tweeting: “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.”

How realistic is this?

This does feel significant, both for the future of English and European football.

We have been here before – namely Project Big Picture – but what feels different this time is the level of planning and what may or may not have been signed.

The furious reaction from the Premier League, UEFA and other European leagues signifies just how much this threatens the integrity of domestic and European leagues.

Clubs would need the approval of the associations, who govern the domestic competitions, to join an unsanctioned breakaway league.

“I cannot envisage any scenario where such permission would be granted,” said Premier League chief executive Richard Masters in a memo to all 20 Premier League clubs.



preview image




1:28

Sky News City Editor Mark Kleinman reports on the latest developments with the planned breakaway European Super League, which come on the eve of UEFA’s announcement of a new Champions League format.

What would the ramifications be?

Potentially huge. Under Premier League rule L.9, which all 20 clubs sign up to, clubs must obtain ‘prior written approval of the Board’ if they wish to enter to anything other than the Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup, FA Community Shield, Carabao Cup or any other competition sanctioned by the county association.

Any player whose club agrees to join an unsanctioned competition risks not playing in any UEFA or FIFA competition, including the European Championships and World Cup.

In January, FIFA had said that a breakaway league would not be recognised and that “any club or player involved in such a competition would as a consequence not be allowed to participate in any competition organised by FIFA or their respective confederation.”

Gary Neville podcast: Verdict on European Super League

Gary Neville gives his opinion on reports of plans for a breakaway European Super League. Sky Sports has contacted the clubs concerned for their responses.

Listen here

Let’

Furious Neville ‘disgusted’ by Euro Super League plan

A furious Gary Neville has hit out at plans to launch a breakaway European Super League, labelling the English clubs involved a “disgrace” and calling for them to face sanctions from the Premier League.

Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea are among six Premier League clubs set to be part of the project, which is intended to rival UEFA’s Champions League, according to Sky News.

The plans have prompted widespread condemnation, with the Premier League issuing a statement saying a super league would “destroy” the premise of open competition, and UEFA threatening to ban participating clubs from existing domestic competitions.

Sky Sports has contacted the Premier League clubs involved for comment, including Manchester United who declined to give a response regarding the proposals.

Speaking on Sky Sports after Manchester United’s 3-1 win over Burnley, Neville accused the Premier League clubs involved of betraying their history and their supporters.

“The reaction to it is that it has been damned and rightly so,” said Neville.

“I’m a Manchester United fan and have been for 40 years of my life but I’m disgusted, absolutely disgusted.

“I’m disgusted with Manchester United and Liverpool the most. Liverpool, they pretend – ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone, the people’s club, the fans’ club’.

“Manchester United, 100 years, borne out of workers from around here, and they’re breaking away into a league without competition that they can’t be relegated from?

“It’s an absolute disgrace.

“Honestly, we have to wrestle back the power in this country from the clubs at the top of this league – and that includes my club.

I’m a Manchester United fan and have been for 40 years of my life but I’m disgusted, absolutely disgusted

Gary Neville

“I’ve been calling for 12 months for an independent regulator to bring checks and balances in place to stop this happening.

“It’s pure greed. They’re imposters.

“There are 100-odd years of history in this country from fans who have loved these clubs and they need protecting.

“I’ve benefited from football hugely. I’ve made money out of football and I invest money in a football club.



Mohamed Salah, left, fights for the ball with Real Madrid's Toni Kroos




2:51

Sky Sports News’ Bryan Swanson reports as UEFA and the Premier League have condemned plans for a European Super League.

“I’m not against money in football but the principles and ethos are of fair competition, so that if Leicester win the league, they go into the Champions League.

“Manchester United aren’t even in the Champions League. Arsenal aren’t even in the Champions League – they are an absolute shambles of a football club at the moment. Tottenham aren’t in the Champions League.

“Have they got a God-given right to be in there? Honestly, the time has come now to get an independent regulator and stop these clubs having the powerbase. Enough is enough.”

Neville: ‘Deduct them all points tomorrow’

Manchester United's Mason Greenwood (centre) celebrates scoring his second goal against Burnley
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Manchester United are thought to be one of the English clubs involved in the plans

Neville believes the English clubs involved deserve to face points deductions and financial sanctions from the Premier League.

“Deduct them all points tomorrow,” he said. “Put them at the bottom of the league and take the money off them.

“Seriously, we have got to stamp on this. It’s criminal. It’s a criminal act against football fans in this country, make no mistake about it.

“This is the biggest sport in the world and it’s a criminal act against the fans. Simple as that. Deduct points, deduct their money, and punish them.”

I’m not against the modernisation of the competition but this is a grab, an absolute grab, and the timing is hideous

Gary Neville

On the clubs’ owners, Neville added: “They’re bottle merchants. They’ve got no voice. They will probably hide in a few weeks and say it was nothing to do with them.

“In the midst of a pandemic and an economic crisis, with football clubs at National League level nearly going bust, furloughing players, with clubs on the edge in Leagues One and Two, these lot are having Zoom calls about breaking away and basically creating more greed? Joke.”

He continued: “You talk about big clubs but Manchester United have acted like a small club for eight to 10 years. Arsenal act like a small club.

“Some of the other clubs in the league who are doing really well, they act like bigger clubs. Being a bigger club is about acting properly at the right time.

“I’d like to think that Manchester United and Liverpool would stand there in the face of this and say, ‘something’s not right here. Let’s collaborate with the game to try to get a better competition, a better Champions League’.

“I’m not against the modernisation of the competition but this is a grab, an absolute grab, and the timing is hideous. What world are these people living in, to think they can bring this forward and this moment in time?”

‘Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal should know better’

Gabirel and Roberto Firmino in action at the Emirates Stadium (AP)
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Arsenal and Liverpool are believed to be part of the European Super League Plans

Neville was particularly angered by Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal’s reported involvement given their rich histories.

“There isn’t a football fan in this country that won’t be seething listening to this conversation and these announcements,” he added. “This is disowning-your-own-club stuff, this.

“How can you even think of watching the Super League here [at Old Trafford] when you’ve left your 14 clubs in the Premier League behind to play against each other?

“Your Championship clubs, dead, your EFL clubs, dead. Your pyramid system that you’ve fought for for 150 years, gone, all because of six clubs? Absolutely embarrassing. It’s never going to happen.

“If they announce a letter of intent that has been signed, those six clubs, they should be punished heavily. Massive fines, points deductions, take their titles off them, who cares?

“Give the title to Burnley or Fulham. Let Fulham stay up, relegate Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal because those three clubs are the history of this country and they should be the ones that suffer most.

“They should know better. The history and tradition that runs through those clubs is enormous but they leave a lot to be desired at this moment in time.

“Liverpool Football Club, seriously. I haven’t got a great relationship with them at all – I don’t like them and they don’t like me.

“But the one thing I always thought about them was that they were honest, they had integrity, they would look after their people. That’s gone. Forget that.”

Gary Neville podcast: Verdict on European Super League

Gary Neville gives his opinion on reports of plans for a breakaway European Super League. Sky Sports has contacted the clubs concerned for their responses.

Listen here

Let’

Arsenal snatch point to dent Fulham’s survival hopes

Eddie Nketiah scored a dramatic late equaliser as Arsenal rescued a 1-1 draw to dent Fulham’s Premier League survival hopes.

Scott Parker’s side came into the game seven points adrift of safety having played a game more than Burnley in 17th, and they thought their task was about to become even harder when Dani Ceballos converted Hector Bellerin’s cross just before half-time.

However, VAR came to their rescue and the goal was ruled out because of an incredibly tight offside decision against Bukayo Saka.

Fulham defended resolutely against the Gunners and were hoping for one chance to fall their way, and it did midway through the second half when Gabriel Magalhaes brought down Mario Lemina inside the penalty area. The incident survived a VAR review for offside and Josh Maja stepped up to emphatically convert the penalty as Parker’s men looked on course for what would be a crucial three points.

However, after repelling nearly everything the Gunners threw at them with a superb defensive performance, Fulham buckled in the final stages of seven minutes of injury-time, Nketiah poking home from close range to rescue a 1-1 draw.

The result means Fulham are now six points behind Burnley, who have the chance to stretch that gap when they take on Manchester United on Super Sunday (kick off 4pm – live on Sky Sports).

Meanwhile, despite the point, it was a disappointing afternoon for Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal side after they booked their place in the Europa League semi-final in midweek with a thumping win at Slavia Prague. The Gunners stay ninth with their chances of European qualification through the league now looking extremely difficult.

How Arsenal eventually broke Fulham’s resistance…

Arsenal started well and could have been ahead inside two minutes when Alexandre Lacazette’s flick released Gabriel Martinelli, but the Brazilian could only lift the bouncing ball over Alphonse Areola and wide of the far post.

The hosts cut the Fulham defence wide open again moments later when Emile Smith Rowe’s cut back picked out Martinelli, but, again, he wasted the chance as his low effort was saved by Areola.

Arteta’s side failed to make their early dominance count and Fulham began to get a grip of proceedings.

Player ratings

Arsenal: Ryan (6), Bellerin (5), Holding (7), Gabriel (5), Saka (7), Xhaka (7), Ceballos (7), Elneny (5), Smith Rowe (6), Lacazette (6), Martinelli (7).

Subs: Partey (6), Pepe (7), Nketiah (7).

Fulham: Areola (8), Aina (7), Andersen (9), Tosin (8), Robinson (7), Lemina (7), Anguissa (7), Decordova-Reid (7), Cavaleiro (6), Lookman (6), Maja (7).

Subs: Reed (6), Loftus-Cheek (n/a), Bryan (n/a).

Man of the match: Joachim Andersen.

They were inches away from taking the lead in the 21st minute when Maja’s deflected shot left Mat Ryan stranded, but the ball trickled inches wide of the upright.

The Gunners were starting to toil against a stubborn Fulham defence, but they thought they had finally broken the deadlock when Ceballos headed home Bellerin’s cross at the far post, but a VAR review saw the goal chalked off for a marginal offside against Saka in the build-up.

The assistant referee’s flag would soon deny Arsenal another goal, this time with a more obvious decision against Smith Rowe, who mistimed his run as he latched onto a Lacazette pass in the build up to Ceballos’ cross being turned into the Fulham net.

JOSH MAJA

At the start of the second half, Arsenal pushed forward again but Lacazette pulled a shot wide before the Gunners would again struggle to create any clear-cut chances.

Their wastefulness in front of goal would come back to haunt them as Fulham were awarded a penalty, with referee Craig Pawson pointing to the spot after guidance from his assistant following Gabriel’s late challenge on Lemina.

Two VAR checks later – one on the challenge and one for offside – and Maja broke the deadlock, sending Ryan the wrong way and thumping the ball into the roof of the net from the penalty spot.

Arteta turned to Nicolas Pepe and Thomas Partey, the former coming close to levelling with his first meaningful touch as his header across goal was cleared off the line by Tosin Adarabioyo.

Team news

  • Mikel Arteta made five changes to the Arsenal side which cruised past Slavia Prague in the quarter-finals of the Europa League on Thursday. Mat Ryan replaced Bernd Leno to make his second start in the Arsenal goal, while Hector Bellerin and Gabriel Magalhaes returned in front of him in defence. Mohamed Elneny came in for Thomas Partey in midfield, while Gabriel Martinelli was restored in attack after scoring in Sunday’s win at Sheffield United, with Nicolas Pepe dropping to the bench.
  • Scott Parker also made five changes following Fulham’s last-gasp defeat to Wolves last time out. Tosin Adarabioyo was drafted back into the Fulham defence, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa came into midfield, and the Cottagers’ attack was boosted by the returns of Ivan Cavaleiro, Ademola Lookman and Josh Maja. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Harrison Reed, and Aleksandar Mitrovic dropped to the bench, while Terence Kongolo and Kenny Tete were absent.

Lacazette was then replaced by Nketiah, the France striker heading straight down the tunnel with his shirt over his head after appearing to pick up an injury, and it would be the substitute who eventually rescued the Gunners.

Arsenal threw everything they could at Fulham, who looked like they were going to get over the line, but the pressure finally told in the closing stages of seven minutes of stoppage time.

Ryan was thrown into the Fulham box for back-to-back late corners and the goalkeeper got an important touch to the second as the ball broke to Ceballos, whose shot was pushed away by Areola but only into the path of the waiting Nketiah, who made no mistake from close range.

Headache for Arteta as Arsenal dealt Lacazette blow

Alexandre Lacazette trudges off after picking up a hamstring injury
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Alexandre Lacazette trudges off after picking up a hamstring injury

Sky Sports’ Oliver Yew at the Emirates Stadium:

The sight of Alexandre Lacazette heading straight down the tunnel with his shirt pulled up over his head would have been a difficult one for Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta.

The Frenchman has been a key figure for Arteta in recent weeks, with his goals helping fire the Gunners to a Europa league semi-final against Villarreal later this month, but he now faces a spell on the sidelines after limping out of the 1-1 draw with Fulham with a hamstring injury.

“I cannot tell you if it is going to be a week or five or six weeks,” Arteta said. “He felt his hamstring so we don’t know. We are all disappointed because we know ‘Laca’ was on form. We have to rotate players; we have players who didn’t recover from the game on Thursday. That is the risk. You cannot change those players every game.”

The Gunners are already without captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who contracted malaria on a recent international trip to Gabon, leaving Arteta with a potential headache up front with games against Everton and the first leg against Villarreal on the horizon.

He felt something in his hamstring but we don’t know the extent of it and we are disappointed because we know the moment that Laca was on.

Mikel Arteta on Lacazette’s injury

It may lead to a chance for Eddie Nketiah, who came to Arsenal’s rescue against Fulham, sealing a point for his side deep into stoppage time.

The 21-year-old, who has been linked with a move away from Arsenal, has struggled for minutes with the Gunners in recent months, but he was in the right place at the right time to poke home from close range and spare Arteta’s side’s blushes.

Now he could be set for a central role. “We will see, we will assess who is available and how we want to approach the game and we will make decisions based on that,” Arteta said when asked about Nketiah’s chances. “He always offers his best. Today he scored a goal, he had another two important chances and he’s always a threat in front of goal.”

And now with Arsenal’s hopes of European football resting mainly with the Europa League, the Gunners may need Nketiah in the right place and the right times a few more times this season in the potential absence of Lacazette and Aubameyang.

Keane slams ‘dreadful’ Arsenal

Speaking on Super Sunday, Sky Sports’ Roy Keane said:

“Arsenal were dreadful. I can’t believe how bad Arsenal were. But they probably just about deserved it.

“I don’t know if Fulham deserved too much more than that. I thought they were poor. I know they’re fighting for their lives but the lack of quality from both teams was dreadful.

“Arsenal were even worse. God help Arsenal going forward. I thought they were shocking, dreadful, no quality, and they got a bit lucky in the end.

“Arsenal… my goodness.”

What the managers said…

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta: “We started really well, controlling the game and creating chances, scoring a goal that was disallowed, in a very disappointing way, we kept going and didn’t allow any shots on target and suddenly we concede a penalty and the game changes completely.



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2:33

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta felt at the very least his side deserved a point having dominated the game against Fulham

“We took risks in the right way, we could have scored three or four, we totally deserved to win the match but put ourselves in a difficult position.

“We have to just focus on the boys playing away in Europe and arriving here with the desire to go all the way to the 97th, 98th minute.”

Fulham boss Scott Parker: “I’m disappointed and gutted and the overriding factor is the team have worked tirelessly today, given everything, come to a place like this against a very good side and managed to get our nose in front. Second half we had to weather it a bit and then the last action, I’ve just seen it back. He [Rob Holding] looks offside to me, he’s standing in an offside position. As a consequence of where my ‘keeper is, he’s two yards away from the goal-line and he’s in an offside position – that’s what’s disappointing.








4:27

Fulham manager Scott Parker said he was left gutted at the Emirates after his side conceded a late equaliser against Arsenal

“We defended superbly, we limited them to few chances. The longer the game was going on I felt we had done well but the residing factor is that late decision and the rules on it. I think the linesman sees Holding in an offside position, we then go to someone who is miles away and I’m not just saying that because I’m standing on the end of a draw. If someone’s standing in an offside position then I don’t understand that.”

Man of the match – Joachim Andersen

FULHAM

Andersen was a rock at the heart of the Fulham defence and helped repel anything Arsenal threw at them, right until the final seconds of the game.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Andersen said his side were left disappointed after getting so close to what could have been a crucial three points.

“We’re disappointed. It is a little bit similar to the Liverpool game, concede a silly goal like that at the end, small things that change the game,” he said.

“We showed many times that we can play against the best and it is small things that mean we don’t win the game, it is just hard now.

“Arsenal were good today and it was a difficult game, you have to understand you have to defend sometimes when you come here, we didn’t create enough but if you can win 1-0 away then what more do you want.”

Opta stats – Arsenal’s unbeaten run vs Fulham stays intact

Rob Holding congratulates Eddie Nketiah after his late goal got Arsenal a draw against Fulham
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Rob Holding congratulates Nketiah after his late goal
  • Arsenal have never lost at home against Fulham in 30 previous competitive meetings (W24 D6), more than they’ve faced any other side at home without defeat in all competitions.
  • Fulham remain winless in 23 Premier League London derby matches (D5 L18), although four of their five draws in this run have come this season.
  • Only against Liverpool (seven) have Fulham conceded more 90th-minute goals in the Premier League than they have against Arsenal (six).
  • Arsenal’s late equaliser means that the Gunners have recorded the exact same points tally after 32 games this season as they had at the same stage last term (46); they last had fewer from their first 32 matches of a league season in 1994-95 (40).

What’s next?


Friday 23rd April 7:30pm


Kick off 8:00pm

Sky Sports Premier League HDSky Sports Premier League HD

Arsenal are back in action on Friday when they host Everton, live on Sky Sports Premier League; kick off 8pm.

Fulham’s next game is not until Saturday May 1 when they travel to west London rivals Chelsea; kick off 3pm.

Let’

Arteta on Arsenal’s youth revolution

“It made me proud,” Mikel Arteta tells Sky Sports with a smile.

The Arsenal manager is reflecting on Emile Smith Rowe’s double nutmeg in the build-up to the opening goal against Slavia Prague. But he could just as easily be thinking about Bukayo Saka’s finish for the third. Or the driving run that won the penalty for the second.

Arsenal set up a Europa League semi-final against Unai Emery’s Villarreal in the most emphatic style possible and they did it with their young players leading the charge. No wonder Arteta is smiling.

“I love to work with young players and give them the opportunity but it’s not only that,” he adds. “It’s the collective aspect of the game. How we play together and how we enjoy playing our style.

“When you see it in the goals we have scored recently, it’s really powerful because this is why we are here: to entertain, to make our fans proud, and to win football matches.

“When you do all three of them, it’s as good as it gets.”

Arsenal have not done it enough this season. Beat Fulham on Sunday and it will only be the fourth time all campaign that they have won three consecutive games. But it is difficult to watch Saka and Smith Rowe in full flow and not feel excited for their future.

Arteta certainly feels that excitement. “There are parts of the games when I start to see where we can go,” he says. “It’s just about sustaining those levels for longer periods, ideally for 95 minutes.”

That is the next step for this Arsenal side and Saka and Smith Rowe are not the only youngsters who will try to help them make it.

Gabriel Martinelli is vying for a starting spot and there are high hopes for striker Folarin Balogun too. The talent is there.

“The young players have earned our trust and showed that we can believe in them,” says Arteta. “Not only in the games but in the way they are around the place and the way they train every day.

“The freedom and the quality that they are showing is because they have the right people around them as well. Young players can only sustain and evolve their level when they are surrounded by the right characters, and by senior people who make them better.

“They are lucky to have senior players around them who are constantly on them. They give them a lot of confidence and freedom, and they go onto the pitch with that because they know they are fully supported.

“They can make mistakes and they can express themselves knowing the senior players will protect them and that’s really important.”

Intelligence elevates Saka

Saka has become one of Arsenal's best players this season
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Saka has become one of Arsenal’s best players this season

Saka is perhaps a unique case because, despite his boyish appearance, he already looks like a senior player himself.

The 19-year-old has been outstanding all season, scoring seven goals and providing seven assists in 38 appearances and excelling everywhere from left-back to right wing.

Slavia Prague are just the latest side to have struggled to contain him – Saka was fouled six times across the two legs and is among the 10 most fouled players in the Premier League – but it is a different quality that truly sets him apart in the eyes of Arteta.

“Intelligence,” he says.

“We talk about physicality, we talk about spirit, we talk about technique. But the brain is the one that makes all the decisions.

Saka
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Saka has been used in various positions this season

“‘B’ makes a lot of good decisions because he is such an intelligent player who can read situations. After that, of course, he has the ability to execute them the right way and that’s obviously a big quality.”

Saka has featured regularly throughout Arteta’s tenure but it is only this season that he has become a key component of their attack.

“It took me a while to figure him out,” explains Arteta. “That’s why I tried to play him in different positions, to see how he reacted.

“I wanted to test his character as well because he was playing as a left-back and I know it wasn’t his ideal position but he had to go through that period.”

It took me a while to figure him out. That’s why I tried to play him in different positions, to see how he reacted

Mikel Arteta on Bukayo Saka

There was some clamour among supporters for Saka to return to the left-back position after Kieran Tierney suffered knee ligament damage during the recent defeat to Liverpool.

Arteta, though, feels he has become too influential further forward to be moved back and recent evidence suggests he has a point.

“We’ve seen how he can affect the game more and be a real threat. He has the quality to decide a football match.

“When you have that, you need to try to get the right position for him to be decisive as much as possible because then the team will be closer to winning more football matches.”

Why Martinelli had to wait

Gabriel Martinelli was originally named as a starter against Newcastle
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Martinelli did not start a single game between January and April

Arteta feels Saka has “come a long way” in the last 18 months and says the same of Smith Rowe since his emergence over the Christmas period. Martinelli, however, has had to be more patient.

The Brazilian’s progress was stalled by a knee injury last season and despite making an eye-catching impact when he returned to fitness in December, he has only featured sporadically since.

The 19-year-old’s absence has perplexed some supporters at times when senior players have underperformed but Arteta hopes the period out of the side will benefit him in the long term.

“He came back in and he had an impact but there were still a lot of things that we had to work on with him,” explains Arteta.

“He needs time. He is so willing and so anxious that it can block his development sometimes as well.

“Sometimes he won’t understand my decisions but the only reason I make those decisions is to help him, so that when he gets the chance to sprint, he can sprint, and when he falls, he goes again.

“I want a long run with him, not just a short one, and he’s in a better place now.”

Arteta will not be drawn on which specific areas of Martinelli’s game still require improvement – “I cannot discuss that,” he says with a grin – but he does divulge a need for greater maturity.

“There are a few things that have to be better and one of those is to manage when he doesn’t play because this is part of your career, this is part of being at a top club and being a young player.

“You have to know how to suffer when you are on the bench and you are not selected and somebody else is playing.

“You have to be able to swallow that, all your ego and your anger, all your willingness to play the game, while also living in a different country. That’s a big test and he’s gone through that as well.”

Balogun next in line



Folarin Balogun is on the  verge of signing a new deal with Arsenal




1:07

Balogun is ‘very close’ to signing a new contract with Arsenal

Martinelli is now back in the first-team frame having marked first Premier League start since January with a goal in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Sheffield United and Arsenal hope academy product Balogun will soon be more prominently involved too.

The highly-rated 19-year-old appeared to be on his way out of the club as he neared the end of his contract this summer but an agreement has finally been reached on a new deal. Arteta feels it is another example of Arsenal’s commitment to youth.

“It’s really important because it shows that he has enjoyed the time he’s been training with us and that’s why he wants to stay with us. He sees an opportunity here to have the career that he wants.”

Balogun, an Arsenal player since the age of eight, made his sixth senior appearance for the club when he came off the bench against Slavia Prague and Arteta is grateful to academy manager Per Mertesacker and technical director Edu for helping to convince him to stay.

“In all aspects, he knows that we trust him and that we want to have a future together,” says Arteta.

“Then, we needed to link that with the people at the club, with the right support from Per and the academy, and with the work that Edu has done over the months to undo what was happening and the direction the situation was taking.

“He has completely turned that over into a position where now the player is going to stay with us.”

There remains some uncertainty about Arsenal’s other striking options beyond this season, with Alexandre Lacazette yet to be offered a new contract and Eddie Nketiah seemingly falling out of favour. But Arteta is excited by what Balogun has to offer.

He has unique qualities as a striker – his speed and the way he holds the ball. He’s a real goal threat and he works tremendously hard

Mikel Arteta on Folarin Balogun

“He’s a very, very hungry boy,” he says. “He wants to do everything. He wants to practice more every single day.

“He has unique qualities as a striker – his speed and the way he holds the ball. He’s a real goal threat and he works tremendously hard.

“He will be pushing anybody in our first team to get his spot and that’s exactly what we want.

“He’s got the chance; now it’s time for him to prove himself. We have to give him the right support, which he will get, and then it’s up to him and what he does on the pitch.”

Youth emphasis explained

Arsenal have won seven of the 10 Premier League games Smith Rowe and Saka have started together
Image:
Smith Rowe and Saka came through Arsenal’s Hale End academy together

The implication from Arteta is that Balogun could spare Arsenal the expense of needing to dip into the transfer market in search of an external solution this summer.

“For me, if we want to strengthen our position and we need to recruit somebody, first of all we have to look in our academy,” he says. “It’s part of the DNA of the club and we have to do that.

“If we have that product in our club, let’s bring him in. But he has to have the right qualities, the right mentality and character to do so. If not, we have to go and try to find him.

“We are lucky. We have some really good players coming up but we need more and in order to do that we need to keep investing in our academy, to have the right coaches. I think Per is doing a fantastic job. Let’s keep feeding the first team as much as we can.”

Arteta and Mertesacker go way back.

As players, they arrived at Arsenal on the same day in August 2011, from Everton and Werder Bremen respectively, and went on to play together for five years. Their closeness is helping now.


Sunday 18th April 12:30pm


Kick off 1:30pm

Sky Sports Premier League HDSky Sports Premier League HD

“We look at each other and we know what the other one is thinking,” says Arteta, smiling. “We have the same aim and the same vision for the club. We are really close and hopefully we can do a lot of good things together.”

Arteta nods when asked if he sees more players in the academy capable of making an impact like Saka and Smith Rowe – “I do,” he says – and insists the progress of that duo is a testament to the work being done at youth level by Mertesacker and his staff.

“I think they should take a lot of credit for what those two boys are doing because it’s not only about their qualities, it’s about how well they have prepared them, in the academy, to handle the pressure and expectation that comes when you jump to the first team.”

Some of that pressure and expectation comes from Arteta himself. The 39-year-old is a demanding and vocal presence on the touchline during matches and it is the same story behind the scenes.

Any young players hoping to make the step up must demonstrate defensive diligence first and foremost. Quality alone is not enough.

For me, if we want to strengthen our position and we need to recruit somebody, first of all we have to look in our academy

Mikel Arteta

“If you don’t do that, there’s no chance you can play for us because you’re going to expose the team big-time. If there is a player who doesn’t want to do that, the whole team is going to notice that and we will be in trouble, so that’s the first thing you have to do.

“The moment you lose the ball, you have to chase it all the way, with the right intensity, and if they beat our press you have to run back straight away. If you don’t do that, you cannot play.

“It’s desire and heart. Everybody has the willingness to sprint 30 meters to get a tap in and score a goal. It’s just about willingness.

“If you can’t do it after 90 minutes and you jog back, I understand. But in the first half an hour, there are no excuses.

“You have to go full gas.”

That is certainly what Arsenal did against Slavia Prague on Thursday night – and it is what Mikel Arteta will hope to see more of as Saka, Smith Rowe and the rest lead them into the future.

Watch Arsenal vs Fulham live on Sky Sports Premier League HD from 1pm on Sunday; kick-off 1.30pm

Let’