Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta has applauded fans for killing the proposed European Super League with what he felt was arguably the “strongest message ever sent in the football world”, likening the response to a “tsunami”.
The Gunners were one of the 12 founding members of the planned Super League, a closed-shop competition that was announced on Sunday after years of speculation.
But the project never got off the ground as, within 48 hours of it being revealed, the plans were left in ruins as the six Premier League clubs pulled out.
Following an almost universal backlash, Manchester City – whose manager Pep Guardiola railed against the general concept – withdrew first, with Chelsea apparently preparing to do so at the same time.
Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham then released simultaneous statements later in the day confirming their disassociation with the tournament, which was set to rival the Champions League but guarantee participation for the founding clubs.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, who was set to front the Super League as chairman, has insisted the plans are not dead, but with the English clubs issuing apologies to their supporters, the idea will take some resurrecting.
And Arteta, addressing the media for the first time since the initial announcement, applauded the actions of supporters in forcing the U-turn.
He said: “I think this has given a big lesson. It shows the importance of football in the world, and shows that the soul of this sport belongs to the fans, and that’s it.
“We’ve been trying to sustain this industry with no fans in the pandemic, but when they have to come out and talk, they do so loud and clear and they sent probably the strongest message that has ever been sent in the football world.
“Every club has done the right thing, we have to listen to them [the fans]. In 24 hours they killed the project, it’s a massive statement for the history of football.
“I found out just a little before the news was leaked. Then everything was out of control and the world reacted in a really unified manner. There was no time to think or reflect because by the time that was out, a tsunami killed it.”
As a result of listening to you and the wider football community over recent days we are withdrawing from the proposed Super League.
We made a mistake, and we apologise for it.
Arsenal were the first to issue an apology to supporters as they published an open letter from the board when their withdrawal was confirmed, while Arteta confirmed all club officials involved have apologised to him and the players.
Asked if an internal apology had been communicated, Arteta said: “Yes, from Vinai [Venkatesham, CEO], the ownership and everyone involved in the process, all of them with the right intentions to defend the club put the club in the best position for now and future, but accepting the way it has been handled has had terrible consequences and that it was a mistake.
“I have to really respect that when people have genuine intentions to do the best thing for the club but if it doesn’t happen or isn’t the right thing to do, they can stand up and apologise. I think the players and staff, we have to move on. The way it has been handled internally has been very good.”
As for communication from the Kroenkes, the family that owns the club, Arteta added: “Absolutely [they apologised], they are the maximum responsible to run the football club.
“They apologised for disturbing the team and not having the capacity or ability to communicate in a different way earlier, explained the reasons why, and passed on the message to the players. That’s all you can ask for and I have to accept completely.”
It remains to be seen if there will be any punishment for Arsenal and the other clubs involved, as points deductions, fines and Champions League bans have all been mooted.
Arteta feels Arsenal have to be ready to face – and accept – the consequences of their actions.
“I don’t know the legal details to respond to that,” he said. “When you act, there are always consequences. I don’t know the extent of those consequences.
“I think here we have to understand the principle and why those clubs were trying to achieve something, but if it wasn’t done in the right way, there are always consequences and we’ll have to accept that if there are.”