Disgruntled fans continued to protest as the fall-out from the ailing European Super League project rumbled on, with a board member of the Arsenal Supporters Trust calling for the unsavoury saga to be used as a “catalyst for change”.
The six Premier League teams who originally signed up to form a breakaway competition with some of the biggest clubs in European football have now backed out of the plans after a furious backlash from supporters and the wider footballing world.
Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham have all come in for criticism, with the proposals for a competition which would offer protected against relegation seen as a blatant power grab.
On Wednesday evening, a number of Tottenham fans gathered at the stadium ahead of their game with Southampton on to protest against chairman Daniel Levy and the club’s ENIC owners.
Spurs fans, who have been vocal in the past about Levy’s stewardship, congregated with banners and chanted songs in protestation at the club’s plans to join in the ESL.
It was a peaceful demonstration, but did distract from Ryan Mason’s first game in interim charge following Jose Mourinho’s sacking.
Arsenal host Everton in the Premier League on Friday evening and, although the club has now withdrawn from the controversial plans, protests aimed at owner Stan Kroenke are still expected outside of the Emirates Stadium.
Kroenke has endured a fractious relationship with Arsenal supporters since his first involvement in 2007 and the ill-feeling only intensified when he became the sole owner of the club in August 2018.
Now Akhil Vyas, a board member of the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust, has called for football to respond to the breakaway division and borrowed a phrase from Arsenal’s former chief executive Ivan Gazidis to make his point.
“He’s been such an absent owner that he will probably just hide like an absolute coward like he has been doing all week, hoping that it just blows over,” Vyas told the PA news agency when asked about Kroenke.
It's an absolute lack of respect for fans – he is not interested in any of this stuff we have spoken about and that is why he is the wrong owner.Akhil Vyas, AST board member
“There’s a lot of noise on social media protests and around London, but I’m not sure how much Stan Kroenke cares or will see of it.
“They’ll be hoping it just goes away, but I’m hoping it doesn’t and I’m hoping this can really be used as a catalyst – there’s a famous Ivan Gazidis line from a few years ago when he called for a ‘catalyst for change’, well I think this is a catalyst for change, not just for Arsenal fans but for football fans.
“We absolutely dislike, hate is a strong word, but we really, really dislike our owners.
“It’s an absolute lack of respect for fans – he is not interested in any of this stuff we have spoken about and that is why he is the wrong owner.”
Arsenal’s statement to announce their withdrawal included an apology to their supporters for misreading the situation.
Liverpool owner John W Henry then apologised to fans in a video message posted online on Wednesday morning.
Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer said the club “apologise unreservedly for the unrest caused during these past few days” in an open letter published on the club’s website during Wednesday afternoon.
Duncan Drasdo, the chief executive of the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust, had earlier told PA that simply saying sorry for the actions would not be enough.
“I don’t think it means that much without further commitment for a change of ownership,” Drasdo said.
An open letter from Joel Glazer to all Manchester United fans.— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 21, 2021
“It is important to separate the football club and the owners because this decision was taken solely by the owners.
“So I think it’s going to have to come from the owners’ official statement. I think it’s appropriate, if there is going to be an apology, that it comes directly from them.
“I think if there isn’t an apology from the owners then obviously that’s going to be a kind of open sore that’s being pointed to for years to come.”
Large swathes of United supporters have been against the Glazers’ ownership for some time.
Drasdo believes this latest issue means the family would now be interested in selling the club and that – if they were to do so – they could change the way they are seen by fans.
“We don’t just want to see a change of ownership for the sake of it,” he added.
“But we don’t want the kind of owner that wants to use the club, purely to make money for themselves. And so that has to change.
“Arguably, their exit started as soon as they floated on the stock exchange and started to reduce their shareholding, it means there is an opportunity to do something that might actually change the path of their legacy.
“If they actually did something where they actually helped the supporters to take on ownership and there’s a mechanism to do that.”
The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust pledged to keep pushing the Stamford Bridge club for further answers, in a bid to ensure no repeat of the events of the last few days.
Our club, not yours 💙 https://t.co/BfG46K4A3G— Chelsea Supporters’ Trust⭐️⭐️ (@ChelseaSTrust) April 20, 2021
“Our relations with CFC will remain frayed until we have a better understanding of why this decision happened and we are assured that change and safeguards are put in place,” it said.
“The CST will not rest until we are comfortable that change and protections are put in place. 116 years of history was jeopardised. This is our club and will remain our club.
“The past few days have shown football at its worst, but also more importantly at its best.
“Chelsea supporters across the globe should be proud that we did it together.
“All uniting against a disgraceful decision. Our voice was heard, and they listened.”