UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has opened up on the collapse of the Super League, Ed Woodward’s denial over his involvement, and an apology received from Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer.
European football was rocked following the announcement of plans for a breakaway competition earlier this year, with 12 of the continent’s leading clubs revealing their participation in a ‘closed shop’ tournament that threatened the existence of the sport as we know it.
The proposal was greeted with furious backlash from leading figures in the game and supporters, with several protests leading to the collapse of the plans, the six Premier League clubs involved all withdrawing interest alongside Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan and AC Milan.
Ceferin has now opened up on the Super League and its collapse and believes the solidarity shown has ensured that the ‘threat’ of a future breakaway competition is now gone.
“In a way it is very good that this happened because it was always in the air – big clubs against the rest,” Ceferin said in an interview with the Telegraph.
“It was a question: can I come to your house and say ‘how much is it worth?’ and you say ‘£500,000’ and I say ‘I’ll give you £1million, now leave’. But it’s ‘no, no, this is my house.
“This was big and the threat has now gone. And from the other point of view it is clear how much football means to Europe.
“I think that the three clubs [Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus] who still think we have a Super League have helped us in a way because now it’s much easier to speak about solidarity and everything else because we can say to them ‘just go to your Super League if you don’t like it’. People were saying ‘American owners’ [of three Premier League clubs are to blame] but don’t forget that the only three who think the earth is flat are an Italian and two Spanish.
“Before, for many years, it was hard because there was always some kind of threat and now it’s clear that whoever has any common sense would never try this again. It was tough, it was stressful, for 48 hours, but it is good that it happened.”
The Premier League’s ‘big six’ were the first teams to formally withdraw from the Super League plans, following the outrage sparked amongst supporters over a perceived show of greed from the owners of the clubs involved.
Ceferin believes the exit of the English clubs ‘helped a lot’ and says the clubs who realised their mistake should not be punished further following the initial sanctions.
Ceferin also revealed he received an apology from Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer, admitting the Red Devils’ mistake and vowing to ‘never do it again’.
“I am happy that they are now on our side, they are members of Uefa. I don’t know why we should now haunt them for the rest of their lives,” Ceferin said. “For me, for the nine, the story is over and I treat them exactly the same as all the others.”
“It helped a lot [that they pulled out], for sure. I still think that we shouldn’t now judge them too harshly, those six English clubs, because they understood they did a mistake. For me it’s quite a big surprise that they didn’t know what they were stepping into. But you also have to show some greatness to admit you made a mistake and come back.”
“Without English clubs it’s hard to say it’s a serious competition. I spoke with Joel Glazer and he was honest when he said ‘look we made a mistake. We know we have to suffer sanctions and we will never do it again’. I believe him.”
Ceferin fiercely criticised Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, over his role in the Super League plans, having held positive talks with Red Devils’ chief over plans to reform the Champions League just days before the announcement.
Ceferin branded Woodward – who will step down from his position at the end of the season – a ‘snake’ over his involvement, though has now admitted he is unsure whether the Woodward was telling the ‘truth’ over his lack of input.
“He said he didn’t know that it was happening,” Ceferin said. “But, I don’t know. I don’t want to accuse him or not. I have not said anything about him to anyone else. I just said he called me and said the reforms [of the Champions League] are good. Maybe he was honest back then, I don’t know. But he [later] wanted to explain that he didn’t know it [the ESL] was ever happening. That’s as much as I know.”
Ceferin also blasted the three clubs who remain committed to the Super League plans, with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus having failed to accept defeat in proposals for a breakaway competition.
The 53-year-old has questioned the strange stance of those sides and says threats have been made both towards UEFA and the clubs who dropped out of the Super League.
“Look, they are some of the strangest subjects that I have ever seen in my life,” he said. “They went with a press release ‘Super League still exists, we still have a Super League’. Two days later they sent an application to play in the Champions League.
“So they are in the Super League and out of the Champions League but they want to be in the Champions League? They said the Champions League is over but they still want to play in it? Now they are threatening, sending letters that they will sue us – criminal court, this court – they obviously have too much money. They should invest into women’s football and youth football.
“I think they are threatening the other nine clubs as well. I mean, is this the way to come back to the family? To threaten? There was a press release a couple of days ago ‘if the Super League doesn’t happen football is over’ or something like that. How delusional.”