Super League collapse shows power of fans' voice

Robbie Earle and Danny Higginbotham try to sort through the stunning crumbling of the European Super League within just 48 hours of its announcement.

Video Transcript

- News out there that Atletico Madrid and Barcelona also backing out of the proposed Super League, which would mean now four teams reportedly backing out. Began with Chelsea, then was Man City, and now hearing from Spain that Atletico and Barcelona at this point reportedly backing out. Reaction to that.

- It's not looking quite so Super all of a sudden. And it's the reaction I was hoping. It looks like it's going to be dead in the water. It's going to mean a couple of clubs hanging in there, I think, because they have to. But it's great news for football on the whole and football fans on the whole that the clubs are dropping out.

- What it tells me is that we've seen the teams that, you know, supposedly were going to break out in this Super League. It tells me that it takes one to step away and then the rest do the same thing. So it tells me a lot of these clubs that are involved in it were very skeptical about it, but they went along with it. Because they potentially thought it's the best thing to do. Well, I think we're starting to find out very quickly now that it's not. The powers of over clubs, the powers of over leagues, domestic leagues, is there for everybody to see.

- How can you be a Super League club and the rest of Europe disdains what you do? It just doesn't work. You know, who's going to be watching these games that hijacked football so much in the domestic leagues that football is no longer the same? It just doesn't fit.

- And we talk about fans getting back in the stadiums and we miss them. Just think about fans-- you don't want mixed emotions when you enter a stadium to root for your team. You don't want to sit there if you're not sure-- if you're that unhappy about it. You want full passion.

- And I think the thing is when you look at certain competitions and you see a Real Madrid play in Manchester United or Barcelona play in Manchester City, you look forward to it. This is going to be every week. And the novelty would have soon worn off. What I would say, and Robert touched on it yesterday, the three words that said describe the Premier League. It's what football stands for. It's the unknown. It's the uncertainty. It's the David against Goliath. And you do this with the Super League, that goes.

- Well, it's the unpredictability, right? It's the unscripted element of sports. And if you do this, you at least partially script it. You write the beginning of a story.

- [INAUDIBLE] with some other guys, whose team can't score goals. A few weeks goes to Chelsea. Keep clean sheets for fun and put five goals past him. That is what football is all-- that is why fans go and support football. That is why Brighton [INAUDIBLE] who nearly went out of business not too long ago are now in the Premier League.

- Football is for the fans. You have to earn it. The big message that the 14 teams in the Premier League who were not a part of the original Super League plan all wearing these shirts this week.

- And we've always said the football is for the fans. And for so long we've also said that football is nothing without fans. But today, instead of us just saying it, we're seeing it. And that's the biggest thing. People can talk and people can say things. But what we've seen over the last year with the pandemic with no fans being at the grounds, what we're seeing today, the strength of the fans, how deep it means to the fans. Now we're actually seeing it's not words, it's actions. And hopefully from what we're starting to see today, the fans have had a huge part to play in this. And it's a wonderful day.

- It's interesting just watching the Brighton players as well, because it's been difficult for them. You know, it's not just the Chelsea players because they were the club in it. Brighton were the team who had all this going on, weren't sure what was going. Their time has been delayed as well. And that might also put a little spring in their step. You know what, we're important. Because if that was me, I'd be getting amongst those Chelsea players and saying, this is the Premier League and this is why you're in it.

- You have put us on uncertain ground.

- Correct.

- Yeah. And we have to ponder that.

- Our job could be very different. Now we're going to show you how good we can be.

- [INAUDIBLE], bring us up to speed on the detail of that meeting.

- OK, just before the meeting today actually this morning, we're being told that a senior executive at one of the six breakaway clubs called a senior executive at one of the 14 clubs. And he said to him on the telephone, look, we don't want to leave the Premier League. But we just feel that people here haven't been listening to us. We're still opening-- we're still open to having dialogue with you. So those are the words of a senior executive of one of the breakaway clubs when he telephoned a senior executive at one of the 14 clubs this morning.

Now this phone call, his words, we don't want to leave the Premier League but people haven't been listening to us here. We're still open to having dialogue. His words were reported at the Premier League meeting this morning. And I am told that those words did not go down well at all with the other people at that meeting. Now the anger of the 14 clubs, and this is really important, it is not directed at the six breakaway clubs.

These 14 clubs have nothing against Arsenal, Spurs, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea. What they're upset with-- the people they're upset with is the owners of these clubs and a small group of chief executives who have been pushing this breakaway. The 14 want the six breakaway clubs to stay in the Premier League. But they made it clear in the meeting that certain people from the six clubs would not be welcome back at the Premier League again.

There is also a lot of concern at the Premier League because some of these executives at these six breakaway clubs have been sitting on very important Premier League committees. And in these committees, they have been privy to commercially sensitive and confidential information, which could be used by the European Super League.

Now the 14 do not want this to end up in court, because they feel that could take years and years. They want this to be sorted out as quickly as possible. But whatever happens, they believe that the Premier League needs a total reset. The governance structures need to be looked at again. The voting structure needs to be looked at again. Because we can't have this situation ever happening again in the future.

- What are we hearing from the six breakaway clubs about how they're feeling?

- I think this is a point we made before is that we have to differentiate with the people at these clubs and the owners and some of the senior executives. Because our information is that a lot of people who work and have worked at these clubs in senior roles, some of them, for a very long time, are very unhappy about what has happened. But they are too scared to speak out. They believe that they can't say anything in public about what is happening. And also, in any case, they know that they are powerless to prevent this from happening if the owners want to push it through.

I've also been told that strong differences of opinion are emerging in private between the breakaway clubs. Some of the executives involved believe they're being hung out to dry and are beginning to get cold feet about the whole thing. They're nervous and disappointed about the way it's being handled. One says, this is not what we signed up for. I asked a senior executive at one of these clubs if any of the six clubs were close to pulling out today. He told me, no, not yet. But the longer this goes on, the harder it gets for us.

- Another message that we hear from other officials, one in particular involved in the clubs-- directly involved in the proposals is that they won't walk away. What we are seeing are contradictory messages. And the quickest and easiest way to put those contradictory messages to one side or to come out in public and clearly explain and articulate that stance. And that, I think, is what's certainly within the Premier League and within the wider European football community, it would help just answer some more of those key questions.

Remember, an awful lot still to be discussed and debated in the coming days. We've got UEFA and their next move. Severin said that they're right now, they are in legal talks over what happens involving those clubs that are currently participating in this season's Champions League and Europa League. You look at the Champions League semi-final, Real Madrid against Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain against Manchester City. What's going to happen there?

Because we are know in this extraordinary situation of those clubs competing in the semi-finals of a major European competition, that they don't want to be a part of-- well, three of the four, excluding Paris Saint-Germain, of course. Huge repercussions too involving Manchester United and the Europa League and Arsenal. So there's a lot of key questions that need answered. That legal assessment is taking place today. Later on today, we should find out more about the impact on that and the impact on those players at this summer's European championship. This is an almighty mess.

- And it's not just Brian saying this, it's Pep Guardiola. He said it at his news conference today. He said, it is time for the president's and the vise presidents to come out in public and tell us what are your plans? What are the benefits of this breakaway league? How is it going to work? Why are Ajax, who've won the European Cup four times, not involved in this? Pep basically said, I'm all ears. Tell me, what are your plans?

At the moment, it sounds like Pep Guardiola is not in favor of these plans. But it sounded like just the rest of us, he wants to hear more. And at the moment, the silence is deafening. As Brian says, we've heard from a lot of people. But we have not heard from anyone at these breakaway clubs, apart from Florentino Perez, the Real Madrid president, who frankly came up with some comments and quotes that have been ridiculed and labeled as being ludicrous.

For instance, saying that the only thing he wanted to do was to save football. I think a lot of people think football does not need saving. And it certainly does not need saving by somebody like Florentino Perez, who has never shown the slightest bit of interest in English football ever in his life. All he's been interested in has been his businesses, his family, his life, and Real Madrid.

- At this point, silence is no longer deafening. Players commenting as well. This was earlier today. Marcus Rashford tweeted this picture of a banner inside Old Trafford with a quote from form Man United manager Sir Matt Busbee. "Football is nothing without the fans." Kevin De Bruyne of Man City. This was when the news was starting to trickle in about Man City. "This man comes out of a little town of Belgium dreaming of playing at the highest stage possible. I've represented the Belgian, German, and English league and also proudly representing my country. I've worked and competed against everybody trying to win the ultimate. But the most important word in this is competing. With all events that have been happening the last few days, maybe this is the good moment for everybody to come together and try to work for a solution. We know this is a big business. And I know I am a part of this business. But still, I'm a little boy who just loves to play football. It's not about a certain entity in this case. It's about football over the whole world. Let's keep inspiring the next generation of footballers and keep the fans dreaming."

Right now we're going to take a listen to what just took place a moment ago outside Stamford Bridge.

- [CHANTING] We save football. We save football. We save football. We save football. We save football. We save football. We save football. We save football. We save football. We save football.

- All right, so that was Chelsea fans chanting, we save football. Four teams have pulled out. Talksport reporting all 12 clubs in the Super League meeting tonight to disband. And now breaking news that Ed Woodward, chairman of Manchester United, has resigned.

- Wow.

- It's non-stop here today.

- Not often do you go wow, but that is huge news. Huge news. As a man who you assume is helping to drive and steer this thing through. I mean, what at 24 hours this Super League has been.

- Ed Woodward has created a huge divide at Manchester United, there's no doubt about it. A lot of my friends, big Manchester United supporters, have been long, long, long time ago, before Sir Alex Ferguson and what have you. And the percentage of Manchester United fans that will raise a smile if this potential news is true is unbelievable. It's incredible why it's happened. Sunday, April 18th was probably one of the saddest days in football. And today what we're seeing unfold, we're seeing fans now have their say. It's one of the best-- and I think just like the game that we see on the field-- collectively will always be individuality. And I think that's what we're seeing.

- Ed Woodward, executive vise chairman, yes, of Manchester United, out. I mean, it's just nonstop here. It started with reports that Chelsea was trying to get things in order to possibly pull out. And then after Chelsea, Man City, then Atletico Madrid, than Barcelona. And now there is reports that all 12 clubs in the Super League meeting tonight to disband. Sam Wallace of the telegraph, quote, "They have heard the fans." That's again, this goes back to what we talked about at the beginning. This is the power of the passion of these fans.

- Absolutely. And we're all so pleased that it seems to be going this way. It doesn't take away from the intent of these six clubs. Let's not ever forget the intent of what could have been.

- But can you say the clubs? Can you see the clubs as a whole?

- We had a good reference there where it's people within the clubs not talked about. It might be a small number of people within the clubs. But they were going to take those football clubs, everything that's good about it, and move it for their own benefit. And the football world, the football family that Danny talked about has said, oh no, that's ours. That's not yours to take.

- One of the things we've had now for a number of years is the big clubs, the huge clubs, thinking that they're better than everybody else. And as dark and as troubling as the last few days have been, in a few months time, we could look back at this and say it was one of the best things to ever happen.

- I this it is, Dan. I think you hit a really, really important point.

- Does this spark further change?

- The Premier League needs those big six clubs back. And I'm glad that the other 14 clubs have not gone, all right, that's it. We need those clubs back. And on certain terms, they'll come back. But just as importantly, those big six clubs need the other 14 and need the Premier League. Because without it, they can go off and try their Super League. But guess what? Nobody wants it.

- And they now know they're not untouchable. They're not untouchable.

- It's different negotiation tactics. When we get around that table, not quite so big.

- No, you're not. Because they they've lost a lot from this.

- And by the way, Ed Woodwards not sitting near the side of the table for Manchester United anymore.

- No.