Sunday's announcement of the formation of a new European super league—comprised of some of the world's biggest clubs and designed to rival the UEFA Champions League—was met with contention from the wider soccer world.
Among the most vocal dissenters? Former Manchester United captain Gary Neville.
Neville, who spent two decades with the club and won eight Premier League titles, expressed his disgust with the new league while speaking with Sky Sports on Sunday, aiming his ire at Manchester United and Liverpool in particular.
“The reaction to it is that it’s been damned, and rightly so,” Neville said. “I’m a Manchester United fan and have been for 40 years of my life, but I’m disgusted, absolutely disgusted. I’m disgusted with Manchester United and Liverpool most...they’re breaking away into a league without competition? That they can’t be relegated from? It’s an absolute disgrace.”
The new super league was decried by the Champions League, which announced in a statement on Sunday that, "Every club and player participating in the Super League could be banned from all UEFA and FIFA competitions, European or International level."
A dozen teams have signed up to join the new league: Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid from Spain; Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham from England; and Juventus, A.C. Milan and Inter from Italy.
In his decry against the league, Neville lambasted the ownership groups from the dissenting English clubs, admonishing them for what he perceived as rampant greed and a disregard for fans of the sport. He also advocated for an independent regulatory body to be established and provide checks and balances on the sport's most powerful clubs.
“I’m not against money in football, but the principles and ethos of fair competition and the rights to play the game…(the departing clubs) are an absolute joke," Neville said.
Four of the six Premier League clubs set to join the new league are all currently outside the top four of the table, with Manchester City in first place and Manchester United in second. Teams must finish in the top four to qualify for Champions League in the following year. Chelsea are in fifth place, followed by Liverpool in sixth, Tottenham in seventh and Arsenal in ninth.
Neville punctuated his thoughts on the issue by bringing in the economic context of the sport brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left many teams struggling financially to stay afloat.
“Seriously, in the midst of a pandemic, an economic crisis. Football clubs at the national league level going bust nearly, furloughing players," Neville said. "Clubs on the edge in League 1 and 2, and these lot are having Zoom calls about breaking away and basically creating more greed? Joke.”
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