A joint statement from UEFA, the Football Associations of England, Spain and Italy, plus the Premier League, LaLiga and Serie A added they remained united in their efforts to “stop this cynical project” and were considering all “judicial and sporting (measures) in order to prevent this happening”.
As news filtered out during Manchester United’s Premier League game against Burnley on Sunday, former United defender Neville – who was working as a commentator for Sky Sports – could barely contain his anger over the proposals.
Following the match, Neville savaged the plans while sitting in an empty Old Trafford, with his stinging rebuke of the European Super League quickly going viral.
Here are Neville’s thoughts in an extended interview on Sky Sports.
Dave Jones (host): Gary what would you say now you have had a little time to consider what this European breakaway league is all about and the reaction to it so far?
Gary Neville: The reaction to it is that it has been damned, and rightly so. I am a Manchester United fan and have been for 40 years of my life but I am disgusted, absolutely disgusted. I am disgusted by Manchester United and Liverpool the most.
Liverpool, they pretend (with) ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ (they are) the people’s club, the fans’ club. Manchester United – 100 years, born out of workers. And they are breaking away into a league without competition? That they can’t be relegated from?
It is an absolute disgrace. Honestly, we have to wrestle back power in this country from the clubs at the top of this league, and that includes my club. I’ve been calling for 12 months, as part of an another group, for an independent regulator to bring checks and balances in place to stop this happening. It is pure greed.
They are imposters. The owners of this club (United), the owners of Liverpool, the owners of Chelsea, the owners of Manchester City, they are nothing to do with football in this country. This is 100-odd years of history in this country from fans who have lived and loved these clubs and they need protecting.
I benefited from football hugely. I’ve made money out of football. I invest money into a football club. I am not against money in football but the principles and ethos of fair competition and the rights to play the game, so that Leicester win the league and they go into the Champions League…
Manchester United aren’t even in the Champions League. Arsenal aren’t even in the Champions League. I watched them earlier today and they are an absolute shambles of a football club. Tottenham aren’t in the Champions League and they want a God-given right to be in there? They are an absolute joke. The time has come now for an independent regulator to stop these clubs having the power-base. Enough is enough.
DJ: There does seem to be the suggestion they would need permission from the Premier League to take part, and without it it would have to be a breakaway, not just from UEFA competitions but from our domestic competition as well. So, with that in mind, what is the motivation?
GN: You know what the motivation is. The motivation is greed. My reaction was not an emotional reaction. Deduct them all points tomorrow, put them at the bottom of the league and take the money off them. Seriously, you have got to stamp on this. It is criminal. It is a criminal act against football fans in this country, make no mistake about it. This is the biggest sport in the world, the biggest sport in this country and it is a criminal act against the fans, simple as that. Deduct them points, deduct money and punish them.
DJ: Do you think these clubs would have the courage, knowing how much widespread condemnation there is, to go through with it?
GN: They are bottle merchants. You never hear from the owners of these clubs. They have got no voice. They’ll probably hide in a few weeks and say it was nothing to do with them, they were only talking about it. Seriously, in the midst of a pandemic, an economic crisis, football clubs at National League level going bust, furloughing players, clubs on the edge in League One and Two and this lot are having Zoom calls about breaking away and basically creating more greed? Joke.
DJ: There seem to be suggestions the six clubs in this country will put a statement out. We had this last season with another suggestion about how these six clubs were, essentially, going to make more money. Now we have this. Are just keeping knocking this problem down the road until it is somehow addressed in a proper, right and permanent manner?
GN: They will be amending that statement as we speak because they will have seen the reaction, not just of people on this channel, not just because of people on social media, not just because of the Government, they will be backtracking down the road because they are bottle merchants this lot, let’s make no mistake about it. They did the same with (Project) Big Picture, and they bottled out of that a week later. From my point of view listening to this tonight, you talk about big clubs, Manchester United have acted like a small club for about eight to 10 years. They have been a small club in mentality, Arsenal act like a small club. Some of the other clubs in the league that are actually missing out here, that are doing really well, they act like bigger clubs. Honestly, being a big club is not just about having a global fan-base. It’s acting properly at the right time.
I’d like to think Manchester United and Liverpool would stand there in the face of this and say something is 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 competitions. Competitions have moved forward over the last 100 years. I’m not for everything standing still but this is a grab, an absolute grab at a time when – honestly, the timing is hideous. What world are these people living in to think they can bring this forward at this moment in time?
DJ: Could it be something to do with the fact they perhaps don’t feel any loyalty to this country and these leagues?
GN: No loyalty to this country and these leagues? Enough is enough. There isn’t a football fan in this country that won’t be seething listening to this conversation and these announcements. This is disowning your own club stuff this. Seriously, how could you even come to watch a Super League here where you have left your 14 clubs in Premier League behind, Championship clubs dead, EFL One and Two clubs dead, the National League, the pyramid system that you’ve fought for for 150 years – gone because of six clubs? Absolutely embarrassing. It is never going to happen.
Let them break away but punish them straight away. If they announce a letter of intent has been signed, those six clubs, they should be punished heavily. Massive fines, points deductions, take the titles off them. Who cares? Give the title to Burnley, let Fulham stay up. Relegate United, Liverpool and Arsenal. Those three clubs, with their history in this country, are the ones that should suffer the most. Yes, Chelsea, City, new money in the game, they have come forward – I am not happy with them either let’s be clear, Tottenham I’m not really that bothered about – Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal should know better. The history and traditions that run through those three clubs is absolutely enormous and I value it. But they a lot to be desired at this moment in time.
Liverpool Football Club. Seriously? If you go on the streets of Liverpool – I don’t have a great relationship with them, I don’t like them and they don’t like me… but I always thought they were honest, had integrity, they would look after their people and their own. That’s gone. Forget that. If they sign that letter of intent, they are as bad as the rest of them.
Additional reporting by PA.