John W Henry apologises to Liverpool fans

Plans for the multi-billion pound European Super League were announced on Sunday but by late Tuesday night all six English clubs, including Liverpool, had pulled out. Tony McDonough reports

Liverpool FC have pulled out of the European Super League


Plans to launch a European Super League (ESL) have collapsed after Liverpool and five other Premier League rebels all pulled out of the multi-billion pound project.

Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham were all part of the JP Morgan-backed plan to form the new league that would have replaced the Champions League. 

Spanish sides Atlético Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona and the Italian clubs AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan had also signed up for the project that was announced on Sunday evening.

But a huge backlash from fans, football authorities, other clubs and senior politicians from all parties have forced the English clubs to perform an urgent u-turn. Chelsea were the first to crack early on Tuesday evening, followed by Manchester City.

Earlier in the day, the board of Everton FC accused the the six English clubs looking to take part on the breakaway ESL of “preposterous arrogance”. In a statement they said the club was “saddened and disappointed” at the proposals.

It accused the six English clubs of “acting entirely in their own interests” and “tarnishing the reputation of our league and the game”. And by late on Tuesday evening the six capitulated under intense pressure.

By mid-Tuesday evening, Liverpool’s playing squad had all come out unanimously against the ESL, led by club captain Jordan Henderson. Their statement on social media read: “We don’t like it and we don’t want it to happen.” Manager Jurgen Klopp was also against the idea.

Jurgen Klopp and Jordan Henderson after winning the Champions League in 2019


And, just before 11pm on Tuesday Liverpool confirmed its withdrawal, saying: “Liverpool Football Club can confirm that our involvement in proposed plans to form a European Super League has been discontinued.

“In recent days, the club has received representations from various key stakeholders, both internally and externally, and we would like to thank them for their valuable contributions.”

And on Wednesday morning, John W Henry, founder of Liverpool owner Fenway Sports Group (FSG), posted a video apology to Liverpool fans on Twitter. He said: “‘I want to apologise to all the fans and supporters of Liverpool Football Club for the disruption I caused over the past 48 hours.

“It goes without saying but should be said that the project put forward was never going to stand without the support of the fans. No-one ever thought differently in England. Over these 48 hours you were very clear that it would not stand. We heard you. I heard you.

“And I want to apologise to Jurgen, to Billy (Hogan, club chief executive), to the players and to everyone who works so hard at LFC to make our fans proud. They have absolutely no responsibility for this disruption. They were the most disrupted and unfairly so. This is what hurts most. They love your club and work to make you proud every single day.

“I know the entire LFC team has the expertise, leadership and passion necessary to rebuild trust and help us move forward. More than a decade ago when we signed up for the challenges associated with football, we dreamed of what you dreamed of.

“And we’ve worked hard to improve your club. Our work isn’t done. And I hope you’ll understand that even when we make mistakes, we’re trying to work in your club’s best interests. In this endeavour I’ve let you down.

“Again, I’m sorry, and I alone am responsible for the unnecessary negativity brought forward over the past couple of days. It’s something I won’t forget. And shows the power the fans have today and will rightly continue to have.”

The saga appears to have caused huge reputational damage to all the club’s involved and it will cast doubt on Fenway Sport Group’s continued involvement with Liverpool FC. The investment group, owned by US billionaire John W Henry bought the club for £300m in 2010. It is now valued at almost £3bn.

Until this weekend FSG has enjoyed a good relationship with the fans, even joining the team on an open top bus tour of the city following Liverpool’s Champions League triumph in 2019.

FSG has invested more than £100m in a new main stand, £50m on a new first team training complex at Liverpool FC’s academy in Kirkby and is about to spend a further £60m on an upgrade of the Anfield Road stand. There has also been substantial investment in new players.

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