Fans condemn 'greedy' soccer clubs for breakaway plan


Soccer Football - A "Controlled Zone" sign is seen outside Old Trafford as twelve of Europe's top football clubs launch a breakaway Super League - Manchester, Britain - April 19, 2021 REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

(Reuters) - Furious soccer fans condemned a "greedy power grab" by top European clubs who announced the formation of a breakaway Super League to rival the Champions League.

The league will have 20 teams, with 15 founding members to be joined by five clubs who qualify annually based on their domestic achievements. Crucially, the founding 15 would have their participation guaranteed, removing any risk of relegation.

"I think it is more despicable, it is more of a greedy power grab than we ever expected, and they claim that they do it in interest of football," Ronan Evain, executive director of Football Supporters Europe said of the plan that has been long mooted in some form but only now formally announced.

"What they only really do is endanger the economic model of football and put every single club in Europe in danger," Evain said in Nantes, France.

So far 12 of the biggest and most successful clubs in England, Italy and Spain are signed up to the plan backed by the U.S. investment bank JP Morgan. Many of their supporters' clubs have expressed their concern.

Evain's comments were echoed at the grounds of clubs joining the initiative catapulted into an already congested fixture list of league and cup competitions domestically and in Europe. The clubs say it will create a more sustainable financial model.

"I think it's all about money really because when you look at how much the fans put into these Premiership (Premier League) clubs they should be at least listened to," said John Kessie at Stamford Bridge, home to one of the six English teams involved, Chelsea.

'NO LONGER ABOUT SPORT'

Interior designer Jordi Otero, outside Barcelona's Camp Nou, was concerned about the impact on other Spanish sides.

"I think that small teams are quite damaged by this, and it is like saying that we are the big teams and we create a league for ourselves to earn a lot of money and the rest (of teams) come at the end," the 46-year-old said.

German and French clubs are so far not involved, but for Tobias Haage, outside Borussia Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park stadium, the idea could provide an opening for other clubs who currently do not qualify for the prestigious Champions League.

"It's all about economic interests and no longer about the sport," he said. "But I also think that this might be an opportunity for smaller clubs which could reach the Champions League again should that format continue."

Yang Jie, a 23-year-old Barcelona fan in Beijing, said she was "shocked" by the announcement and against the plan, but recognises that not everyone will feel this way.

"For ordinary, not so serious soccer fans who just watch matches to relax, to relieve stress or who don't support a specific team, this type of match or competition might appeal to them because it will look exciting," she said.

Arsenal fan Wang Yitao has supported the club since 2002 and the 33-year-old said "hardcore fans" must oppose the idea.

"My first reaction was that I felt uncomfortable. I felt that the football values and honour system that I have cherished for so many years have been destroyed," Yitao said.

However, Kevin Wang, a 38-year old Inter Milan fan of over two decades, was not against the idea.

"As an ordinary, curious member of the public I'm actually quite looking forward to this league," said Wang, a member of the Inter Milan fan club in Beijing.

(Reporting by Reuters TV, Martin Quin Pollard in Beijing, Yoyo Chow in Hong Kong; Writing by Alison Williams and Rohith Nair; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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