MADRID — While trying to at least keep the idea of the Super League alive, more of the founding members of the controversial breakaway competition abandoned the project on Wednesday.
The moves by Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Atlético Madrid came a day after the six Premier League clubs involved in the new competition made it unviable by dropping out, leaving Spanish powerhouses Real Madrid and Barcelona as the only teams still officially in it.
While some English clubs apologized to their fans while pulling back on Tuesday, the teams that dropped out on Wednesday admitted defeat but tried to show they still believe in the project.
"While Juventus remains convinced of the soundness of the project's sport, commercial and legal premises, it believes that at present there are limited chances that the project be completed in the form originally conceived," the Italian club said. "Juventus remains committed to pursuing the creation of long-term value for the Company and the entire football industry."
English clubs Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham previously deserted plans for the largely-closed competition amid escalating backlash from their supporters and warnings from the government that legislation could be introduced to thwart them.
Still, AC Milan said the "voices and the concerns of fans around the world have clearly been expressed" but the club "will continue to work hard to deliver a sustainable model" for soccer.
"We accepted the invitation to participate in the Super League project with the genuine intention to deliver the best possible European competition for football fans around the world and in the best interest of the club and our own fans," the Italian club said. "Change is not always easy, but evolution is necessary for progress, and the structures of European football have evolved and changed over the decades."
Inter said the club was committed to delivering the best soccer experience for fans because "innovation and inclusion have been part of our DNA since our foundation."
"Our commitment with all stakeholders to improve the football industry will never change," it said. "Inter believe that football, like any sector of activity, must have an interest in constantly improving its competitions in order to continue to excite fans of all ages all over the world, within a framework of financial sustainability."
The Super League project was overseen by Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez, who promoted it as a way to "save soccer" and the clubs struggling financially amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Neither Madrid nor Barcelona commented after the rest of the clubs abandoned the project. There was some internal pressure on the Catalan club, however, after outspoken captain Gerard Piqué made his view clear.
"Football belongs to the fans. Today more than ever," he wrote on Twitter early Wednesday.
Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman avoided the subject but said he "agreed with" Piqué's tweet.
The Spanish league planned to continue its campaign against the Super League with various actions and messages during matches on Wednesday and Thursday. Defending league champion Madrid was playing at Cádiz later Wednesday.
On Monday, UEFA threatened to ban players from the participating teams from playing in this year's European Championship and next year's World Cup. But a Madrid court later issued a preliminary ruling stopping UEFA, FIFA and its members from acting against the creation of the new league.
Atlético said its decision was made after the club's board of directors met on Wednesday.
The Spanish team said it "decided to formally communicate the Super League and the rest of the founding clubs its decision not to formalize its participation in the project."
Atlético said the "circumstances" that allowed it to join the new league on Monday "no longer exist today."
"For the club, harmony is essential for everyone involved in the Red and White family, especially our fans," it said. "The first team squad and its coach showed satisfaction with the club's decision, understanding that sporting merits must prevail over any other criteria."
Atlético fans had been expected to stage a protest before the home match against Huesca in the Spanish league on Thursday. Widespread protests by fans in England played a big part in the decision by the Premier League clubs to leave the new competition.
"I knew the club would make the right decision and that's what happened," Atlético coach Diego Simeone said. "This is good for everyone.
"When a movement like this happens, things end up changing, I have no doubt," Simeone said. "All sides will have to eventually reach an agreement."
The Super League was intended to be a 20-team competition with 15 founding members guaranteed a spot every season and five other teams rotating in and out. The lack of relegation for the founding members raised concerns about the consequences for smaller clubs in the domestic leagues around the continent.