As it happened: European Super League threatens to shake up 'beautiful game'

From Matias Grez, Rob Picheta, Ben Church and John Sinnott, CNN

Updated 5:22 p.m. ET, April 19, 2021
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6:59 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

US money men, a Russian oligarch and a sheikh are among owners of 12 breakaway clubs

From CNN's Rob Picheta

The 12 clubs plotting a breakaway from the European football structure are controlled by a wide array of mega-rich owners, many of whom have investments in other sports teams around the world.

Three of the six British teams involved have American owners. The Glazer family, which also owns the reigning NFL champion Tampa Bay Buccanneers, has run Manchester United since businessman Malcom Glazer, who died in 2014, bought the team in 2005. John W. Henry, founder of the Fenway Sports Group that owns the MLB’s Boston Red Sox, is at the helm of Liverpool. And Stan Kroenke’s holding company is behind Arsenal and a host of US franchises -- the most lucrative being the NFL’s LA Rams and the NBA’s Denver Nuggets.

Liverpool owner John W. Henry ahead of the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Norwich City in 2019.
Liverpool owner John W. Henry ahead of the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Norwich City in 2019. Michael Regan/Getty Images

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich took over Chelsea in 2003 and his subsequent investment in transfers elevated the club to the top of the British game. A similar move by Sheikh Mansour, the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, helped Manchester City climb into the football elite. Tottenham are the only British-owner Premier League team involved in the plans; British billionaire Joe Lewis is at the helm of that team.

Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona follow a presidential model that is largely unique within European football. Individuals run in hotly contested elections, voted for by the club's members, and are required to put hefty financial backing into the clubs if elected. Construction mogul Florentino Perez has been Real Madrid's President since 2009. Joan Laporta took over at the helm of Barcelona last month, after the tumultuous term of Josep Maria Bartomeu led to fears among fans that superstar Lionel Messi would leave the team.

Florentino Perez has been in charge at Real Madrid since 2009.
Florentino Perez has been in charge at Real Madrid since 2009. Eric Alonso/Getty Images

Atlético Madrid use a more traditional model; businessman Miguel Ángel Gil Marín owns a majority share in that team.

Inter Milan's Chinese owners, the Suning Holdings Group chaired by Zhang Jindong, took over from the Italian Moratti family in 2016. Their local rivals AC Milan have US owners; the investment firm Elliott Management Corporation, run by hedge fund manager Paul Singer, is behind the side.

Juventus, unlike most of the teams involved, have been owned by the industrialist Agnelli family for nearly a century. That group's fortunes were built on the back of the Fiat automobile firm, founded by Giovanni Agnelli in 1899.

6:45 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

"War:" European media widely condemns proposed Super League

Ben Church

Newspapers across Europe have widely condemned the proposed Super League, waging "war" against those who have backed the move. 

Premier League teams Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool have been labeled the “shameless six” by British newspapers, with the Metro calling it a “Civil War”. 

The Mirror called the new league a “criminal act against fans,” while The Telegraph suggested those teams backing a breakaway will face expulsion from domestic competitions. 

In France, L’Equipe called it a “war of the rich” and criticized the clubs' owners for their greed, while Spanish paper AS labeled the news a “bombshell.” 

Italian newspapers were a little more subdued, focusing on the “birth” of the Super League with Corriere dello Sport calling it a “football revolution.”

6:36 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

Spanish club Real Betis swiftly updates La Liga table

Matias Grez

La Liga club Real Betis wasted no time updating the league table on the front of its website ... to exclude Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.

Those three clubs are among the 12 'founding members' of the new Super League and UEFA, FIFA and La Liga have suggested they would no longer be able to compete domestically.

It looks like we have a new runaway La Liga winner ...

Real Betis
Real Betis

7:14 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

Former Liverpool star predicts ‘collapse’ of football

By John Sinnott

Dejan Lovren of FC Zenit during Tinkoff Russian Premier Liga 11 round on October 17, 2020, in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Dejan Lovren of FC Zenit during Tinkoff Russian Premier Liga 11 round on October 17, 2020, in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Anatoliy Medved/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

Croatian international Dejan Lovren used to play for Liverpool, one of the 12 clubs behind the breakaway European Super League.

Lovren won the Champions League and Premier League with Liverpool before signing for Russian club Zenit St. Petersburg.

In a tweet, Lovren said: "Football will be in the near future on a brink of complete collapse. Nobody is thinking about the bigger picture, only the financial side.

"I still believe we can solve this unpleasant situation."

6:09 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

Jose Mourinho sacked by Tottenham

Matias Grez

Tottenham Hotspur has confirmed that Jose Mourinho, along with his coaching staff, has been "relieved of his duties."

"Jose and his coaching staff have been with us through some of our most challenging times as a Club," Spurs chairman Daniel Levy said in a statement.

"Jose is a true professional who showed enormous resilience during the pandemic. On a personal level I have enjoyed working with him and regret that things have not worked out as we both had envisaged.

"He will always be welcome here and we should like to thank him and his coaching staff for their contribution."

Former player Ryan Mason, who is just 29 years old, will take first team training, the club said.

Mourinho was appointed in November 2019 after Spurs sacked Mauricio Pochettino, who is now Paris Saint-Germain's coach.

Jose Mourinho, Manager of Tottenham Hotspur, attends a Premier League match against Manchester United on April 11, in London, England.
Jose Mourinho, Manager of Tottenham Hotspur, attends a Premier League match against Manchester United on April 11, in London, England. Clive Rose/Getty Images

6:00 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

Borussia Dortmund opposes Super League

From CNN's Matias Grez

On Monday, Borussia Dortmund chairman Hans-Joachim Watzke confirmed that the club was against the formation of the European Super League.

Instead, he reiterated that the club remained in favor of the new Champions League format, which was scheduled to be approved by UEFA on Monday.

"The members of the board of the European Club Association (ECA) got together for a virtual conference on Sunday evening and confirmed that the board decision of last Friday is still valid," Watzke said in a statement.

"This decision means that the clubs want to implement the planned reform of the UEFA Champions League. It was the clear opinion of the members of the ECA board that the plans to found a Super League were rejected. " 

Watzke added: "Both German clubs that are represented on the ECA Board, FC Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, represented 100 percent congruent views in all discussions."

UEFA’s Executive Committee will hold a virtual meeting on Monday to vote on plans for an expanded and restructured Champions League competition.

The proposals would see an increase from 32 to 36 teams, as well as an overhaul of the Group Stage into a league table rather than the current groups of four clubs.

Dortmund fans wave flags prior to the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second-leg football match Tottenham Hotspur on March 5, 2019 in Dortmund, western Germany.
Dortmund fans wave flags prior to the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second-leg football match Tottenham Hotspur on March 5, 2019 in Dortmund, western Germany. John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

5:53 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

Aston Villa chief executive calls Super League a 'grotesque concept'

By John Sinnott

Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow arrives at the Premier League offices in London, on March 13, 2020.
Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow arrives at the Premier League offices in London, on March 13, 2020. Luciana Guerra/PA Images/Getty Images

One of football's defining characteristics has always been the idea of relegation and promotion, which is why the reaction to the European Super League has been so negative.

"These proposals do away with sporting merit. It would enable a small number of clubs to be in this competition come what may and, for millions of people in football, that goes against everything the sport means and stands for," Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow told BBC Radio Four on Monday.

"The idea is that the uncertainty that comes with sport, that makes it so compelling, that we all love, is actually damaging to the business model of these huge clubs.

"So the scheme is designed to take away that uncertainty, to give predictability to their businesses so that, if they're badly managed or have a poor year, they're still in the premier tournament. Does that sound like sport or football to you? To me it sounds a grotesque concept."

5:54 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

US investment bank JP Morgan behind new Super League

Aleks Klosok

JP Morgan confirmed to CNN on Monday that it will be financing the proposed new breakaway European Super League.

A spokesman for the company confirmed the news in an email but declined to offer further comment regarding the nature of the deal.

The planned competition would represent the most significant shake-up of elite European football in recent history and is seen as a direct rival to UEFA’s Champions League competition. 

5:54 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

Fans lead calls for boycott

By John Sinnott

Over the last year during the pandemic, Europe’s top clubs have had to get used to playing games behind closed doors.

Given some of the outraged fan reaction, one question is whether European Super League games would be boycotted.

On Monday #BoycottEuropeanSuperLeague was trending on Twitter.