European Super League logo

Plans for the European Super League are gradually collapsing as the project’s six Premier League clubs, half of the Super League’s founding members walked away from the plan only two days after it was announced.

Manchester City, one of the six English teams that had signed up as founding members of the new Super League, was the first to confirm it was out, saying in a one-sentence statement that it had begun the process of withdrawing from the project.

Within hours, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool all signaled they, too, would decline to take part.

Stories Continues after ad

Soon after that, it was all over. Inter Milan was out as well, and just after midnight in Europe a top Super League official confirmed the entire project had been suspended.

The multibillion-dollar proposal that had prompted howls of outrage from nearly every corner of the sport since it was announced on Sunday, and the culmination of a frantic 48 hours of arguments, threats and intrigue at the highest levels of world soccer.

City’s about-face came soon after its celebrated Spanish coach, Pep Guardiola, had slammed the plans for a closed competition, saying, “It is not a sport if it doesn’t matter if you lose.” Chelsea spent the day preparing documents to make a similar reversal, according to a person familiar with the club’s discussions. It did so while its fans held a protest march on the streets outside the club’s stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur expressed regret for taking part. Manchester United acknowledged that its fans had helped to change the club’s mind. “We have listened carefully to the reaction of our fans, the UK government and other key stakeholders,” the team said. Arsenal’s announcement came with an apology.

Earlier, Manchester United had announced that its executive vice chairman, Ed Woodward, one of the main drivers behind the Super League plan, would leave the club at the end of the year.

The loss of the giant Premier League clubs was the death blow for the Super League, stripping it of the competitive legitimacy and relevance it had hoped would make it attractive to sponsors and broadcasters, and leaving the remaining clubs — Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid from Spain, and Italy’s Juventus and A.C. Milan — with little choice but to abandon the proposal.

Less than 24 hours earlier, Florentino Pérez, the Real Madrid president who had been named the Super League’s first chairman, had told a Spanish television interviewer that all of the clubs had signed binding contracts and could not leave. Within a day, half of them did.