MILAN (Reuters) – Breakaway European Super League founder and Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli called time on the project on Wednesday after six English clubs withdrew and he blamed the involvement of politicians for the league’s downfall.
Twelve of Europe’s leading soccer clubs from England, Italy and Spain announced a breakaway league on Sunday but after 48 hours of intense criticism from fans and politicians the six English clubs backed out on Tuesday.
Asked whether the project could still happen following the departures, Agnelli told Reuters: “To be frank and honest no, evidently that is not the case.”
Agnelli said he remained convinced that European football needed change and he had no regrets about the way the breakaway attempt was made.
“I remain convinced of the beauty of that project,” said Agnelli, stating it would have created the best competition in the world. “But admittedly … I mean, I don’t think that that project is now still up and running.”
Agnelli said other clubs were ready to join the new European league before the English sides left.
“I’m not going to say how many clubs contacted me in just 24 hours asking if they could join,” he said, declining to name them. “Maybe they lied, but I was contacted by a number of teams asking what they could do to join.”
Agnelli said he felt the British government’s intervention, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson threatening legislation to stop the breakaway, had pushed the English clubs to withdraw.
“I have had speculation to that extent that if six teams would have broken away and would have threatened the EPL (Premier League), politics would have seen that as an attack to Brexit and their political scheme,” he said.
Asked if he regretted the way the breakaway was conducted – which was heavily criticised by his former ally UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin – Agnelli referred to the nature of the football business.
“If you tell me other methods for putting together such projects … if you were to ask the authorisation of others, I don’t think you would have carried out a project like this.
“The relations are there, I have seen relations changing in time, some people I am quite sure that people will be open and talk to each other,” he said.
“I don’t think our industry is a particularly sincere, trustworthy or reliable one in general.”
(Reporting by Simon Evans and Elvira Pollina; Editing by David Clarke)