Arsenal have formally announced that they are withdrawing from the European Super League.
In a dramatic 48 hours in the world of football, the intervention of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the reported sanctions from both FIFA and UEFA have meant that the project has been “suspended”.
Arsenal’s statement was released around 22:55pm, just as the Super League began to crumble around them.
As a result of listening to you and the wider football community over recent days we are withdrawing from the proposed Super League. We made a mistake, and we apologise for it.Arsenal’s apology.
While no Arsenal fan is likely to believe the talk of wanting to preserve the future of the club, it is a small comfort to know that Arsenal were the only team to apologise for their actions.
As with the rest of the top six in the Premier League, Arsenal are left with egg on their face as they shamelessly return to the Premier League.
A planned protest against owner Stan Kroenke is planned for Friday night’s match against Everton and will likely continue when Arsenal return for games against Villarreall and West Brom.
As usual, the Arsenal owner was once again, unavailable for comment. The American businessman was thought to be at the very forefront of the idea and his reticence to speak out in favour or in terms of an apology has not gone unnoticed.
Then again, this is somewhat atypical of Kroenke’s management of Arsenal since he became the owner. Kroenke has rarely made any public statements on Arsenal and he has been even more silent now, even the tried and trusted method of wheeling out Josh Kroenke for a little bit of positive PR seems unlikely to undo the damage now.
Héctor Bellerín was the first Arsenal player to speak out against the league, by sharing a quote from former-Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger, who, in his farewell speech, asked Arsenal its fans to protect the values the club cherishes.
Despite the players slowly beginning to make their feelings known, the damage seems irredeemable for Kroenke now. While the American has never been particularly popular with Arsenal fans before now, his role in the signing of Atlético Madrid’s Thomas Partey as well as the hands-on approach of Josh Kroenke and the appointment of Tim Lewis to the board of directors, Kroenke seemed to be slowly but surely turning the tide against fan antipathy and was starting to look relatively good in the eyes of Arsenal fans.
What little goodwill these decisions may have built up for Kroenke, seem totally dashed.
Kroenke has never been interested in selling Arsenal before now, despite the hatred from fans, but now it seems his position is untenable.
Whatever fan’s previous feelings over Kroenke and his ownership were before are nothing compared to now. Kroenke’s decision and his involvement with such a project is so diametrically opposed to the values that Arsenal holds dear and the hatred from all corners of the fanbase are so high and so unlikely to dissipate in his lifetime that selling may be the best option now.
The proposed European Super League was perhaps always doomed, but the message from football fans everywhere was sent loud and clear, football is for the players and for the fans and that football without sporting merit and football that seeks to exclude and outprice has no place in the modern game.
Elsewhere, questions are to be asked of the executive team. What will happen now to Edu or Vinai Venkatesham? Edu’s position seems relatively secure, since he likely had minimal influence over the decision and little to no sway in how the club moved forward, however, Venkatesham’s position may not be so secure.
Given that Venkatesham stepped away from the European Club Assosciation (ECA) as part of the proposed Super League, it seems unlikely that Venkatesham will be able to continue in his role without some serious public grovelling.
A fan forum debate is still expected to go ahead later this week, but Venkatesham’s position is looking as untenable as Kroenke’s and with the news that Manchester United’s Ed Woodward has resigned from his post, pressure on Venkatesham may be increased.
Arsenal fans will also be happy to see that the stakes are returning to their match against Villarreal now. Of course, Unai Emery will want blood and will want to prove his doubters wrong in a grudge match against his former club, but the lure of a European final, with the potential to qualify for next season’s Champions League is back on.