Man City and Chelsea said tonight they were pulling out of the European Super League.
Prince William and Boris Johnson were among those who hit out at the plan by billionaire team owners.
City boss Pep Guardiola said: “It is not sport if success is guaranteed.”
The European Super League was falling apart tonight as the two English clubs said they were pulling out in a win for fan power.
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Barcelona and Atletico Madrid look set to follow them as supporters home and abroad expressed fury.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich ordered documentation to request withdrawal from the ESL.
The move came after 1,000 fans protested at Stamford Bridge before their game against Brighton.
A huge cheer went up as news came through that club was pulling out of the league, which was only announced on Sunday night.
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Fans chanted, let off blue smoke bombs and marched around the West London ground.
Former Blues goalkeeper Petr Cech, now a technical adviser, spoke to some supporters and was heard saying “give everybody time” in a video posted on social media.
It emerged Man City were also preparing to withdraw after manager Pep Guardiola said: “It is not a sport when success is already guaranteed, it is not a sport when it does not matter when you lose.”
That was a damning reference to the 12 founding members being guaranteed a spot in the midweek competition every year.
Man Utd executive vice chairman Ed Woodward, 49, stepped down after the club was criticised by its own fans, but he was due to leave at the end of the season anyway.
The club’s striker Marcus Rashford joined growing opposition, warning: “Football is nothing without fans.”
The England ace, arguably the most popular player in the country, shared an image of the famous Matt Busby quote with millions of fans online.
Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, UEFA, the Premier League and Europe’s major leagues criticised the breakaway.
Prince William, the President of the Football Association, vowed to “protect at all costs” grassroots football and has called for an inquiry.
He and CEO Mark Bellingham will devise an action plan and potential sanctions.
A source said: “The Duke is 100% morally opposed to anything that is going to take resources and access away from grassroots football.”
Highly paid players could be banned from playing for their country if they take part in the ESL.
George Cohen, 81, a member of the 1966 World Cup-winning team, urged the likes of Rashford and Harry Kane not to risk missing the thrill of winning a trophy for their country.
He said: “You cannot put a price on glory.”
The Prime Minister said: “The decision by Chelsea and Manchester City is absolutely the right one.
“I hope the other clubs involved in the European Super League will follow their lead.”
Premier League chiefs are considering “all actions to prevent it” including booting rebels out.
Denying players work visas and the withdrawal of police funding for match days are under consideration.
Labour leader Keir Starmer said he would look at pressuring Labour mayors and councils to pull safety licences from stadiums which could host ESL games.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez said: “Whenever there is change, there are always people who oppose it.”
How to stop it
Ways ministers, MPs and officials may scupper the European Super League could include:
- Players going on strike This would devalue the league and the TV rights, making it less attractive.
- Fans’ boycott Not attending matches or buying TV packages to watch games could derail the plans. Most of the money lies in TV rights.
- Banning foreign players and rebel clubs’ staff from entering the UK Government has ruled nothing out.
- Preventing players getting work visas. This would effectively bar them from Britain by making it impossible for them to do their job here.
- Withdrawing police funding for match days Not helping with costs may hamper the staging of rebel games.
- Axing stadium safety licences Grounds’ safety licences for breakaway matches could be withdrawn.
- Punitive windfall taxes Huge taxes could be levied directly on the six clubs taking part or on player transfer deals.
- Using existing competition law The Competition and Markets Authority is “carefully considering” the clubs’ plan.
- Changing the law Fast-track legislation to stop it. Switching to a German ownership model, in which fans own at least 51% of shares and voting rights in their club, is being examined.
85% say ‘no way’
Football fans across the country have sent a resounding message to the European Super League – stay away from our game.
In an online survey of over 100,000 supporters conducted by The Mirror and its sister titles, 85% of participants said they disagreed with the concept of the ESL, echoing the nationwide fury that has engulfed the game over the last 36 hours.
For fans of the six clubs involved with the plans, a mere 5% said they were “supportive” of the plans, while over a third described themselves as feeling “angry” or “embarrassed”.
Elsewhere, supporters of clubs outside of the Premier League’s Big Six have also made their feelings clear, with 83% of those fans admitting they are glad their team isn’t involved in the proposals.
The results are yet another blow to Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham, who each announced their intention to participate in the breakaway competition to widespread criticism from figures in football and beyond.
‘Sponsors to pull out’
The greedy clubs risk being axed by big-money sponsors, experts warn.
Deloitte’s Sports Business Group found the “big six” made £1.2billion from commercial deals last season.
Tim Bridge, of Deloitte’s, said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if sponsors pull out given the current sentiment.
Stephen Cheliotis, of the Centre for Brand Analysis, accused the clubs of scoring “a huge own goal” by “alienating their fanbase”.
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£3.45bn is the amount the contest could earn a year from broadcasting and sponsorship
The 15 ‘founding clubs’ would share 32.5% of that, or £1.1bn
Another 20%, which amounts to £690m would be allocated on ‘merit’ or for performance in the competition.
The final 15%, or £510m would be shared based on broadcast audience size.
All that is without matchday income from ticket sales which could bring in £520m
Last year’s results
Man Utd: £19m
Man City: £10m