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Anger, Humor, Sarcasm: Reaction to Super League Proposals

Αssociated Press

Liverpool s Xherdan Shaqiri reacts after missing a scoring chance during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Fulham at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Sunday, March 7, 2021. (Phil Noble/Pool via AP)

Months after delivering a first English league title to Anfield in 30 years, Liverpool's American ownership was accused of killing the soul of the club over its plans to be part of a 12-strong breakaway group forming a controversial Super League.

"Shame on you. RIP LFC 1892-2021," read a banner hung on the railings outside Liverpool's stadium on Monday, a sign of the anger and rising discontent sweeping through the European game following the announcement of seismic changes being pushed through by 12 of the world's biggest clubs.

Indeed, some disgruntled fans feel their love for Liverpool has been irreparably broken.

"We feel we can no longer give our support to a club which puts financial greed above integrity of the game," said Spion Kop 1906, a fans' group which has asked Liverpool to take down all of their flags and banners from the famous Kop stand inside Anfield ahead of the team's next home game, against Newcastle on Saturday.

The owners of "the dirty dozen" — as some are now calling the breakaway clubs — are staying quiet as soccer reels from their behind-the-scenes negotiations. Their only mouthpieces are the teams' coaches, who must hold news conferences before and after matches.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said he trusted the club's board to make the right decisions, even though he admitted to not being briefed about any plans for a breakaway.

"We are employees of the club, I think it's best if we don't get involved in sports politics in this situation," Tuchel said in a video call on Monday. "It's above our heads, clearly."

Another of the coaches, Atlético Madrid's Diego Simeone, said he would be "prepared to coach wherever they tell me to coach."

"I have no doubt that the club will decide what is best," he said late Sunday after Atlético's 5-0 win over Eibar.

Many others aren't so sure, with reaction to the proposals ranging from humor and sarcasm to outright condemnation and fury.

BETRAYAL

The general tone of the reaction was downright disgust.

"Yesterday, the current board of (Tottenham) betrayed the club, its history and the magic that makes this game so special when they put their name to a statement announcing the formation of a breakaway European Super League," the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust said in a statement.

The group said Tottenham's board was "prepared to risk the club's reputation and its future in the opportunistic pursuit of greed" and called for a change of ownership if Tottenham did not immediately disassociate itself from the breakaway league.

Gary Neville, the former Manchester United defender who is now a commentator and owner of fourth-division English club Salford, described those running the breakaway clubs as "imposters" and called for the Premier League to punish the six English clubs involved with point deductions.

"They're breaking away to a competition they can't be relegated from? It's an absolute disgrace," Neville said in an impassioned rant on Sky Sports.

"We have to wrestle back power in this country from the clubs at the top of this league — and that includes my club," he said, referencing American-owned United.

FRENCH DISMAY

Former Man United midfielder Ander Herrera is one of the few current players to speak out against the proposal. Herrera plays for Paris Saint-Germain, the French champion which is so far refusing to take part  in the Super League alongside big clubs in Germany like Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

"I believe in an improved Champions League," Herrera told his 2.7 million followers on Twitter, "but not in the rich stealing what the people created, which is nothing other than the most beautiful sport on the planet."

French clubs got a pat on the back from the country's president, Emmanuel Macron, whose office said the proposed league "threatens the principal of solidarity and sporting merit." The French government's sports minister, Roxana Maracineanu, criticized the proposed breakaway as "a VIP club to conquer the world, but a world conquest based only on marketing and sales, not sport."

HUMOR

The plan to rip up European soccer is being fronted by mostly foreign-owned clubs but one team with North American leadership was happy to announce its intention to keep the status quo.

"Despite the club's two 4-0 victories this week, we can confirm that we will not be seeking membership to the newly uncovered 'European Super League,'" read a post on Twitter from Welsh club Wrexham, which plays in England's fifth division and was recently taken over by Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.

"The club," it continued dryly, "will be making no further comment."

Russian club Spartak Moscow turned directly to any fans from the 12 breakaway clubs who might be disgruntled by the developments.

"If you need a new club to support, we're always here for you," Spartak said. "Kind regards, FC Spartak Moscow."

REVISED STANDINGS

In Spain, Real Betis published its own updated version of the league standings on the home page of its website, removing the three teams who have signed up to join the Super League: the current top three of Atlético, Real Madrid and Barcelona.

That left Betis in third place in the club's revised standings and its big local rival, Sevilla, in first.