(NewsNation Now) — Anger and rising discontent swept through European soccer Monday following the announcement that 12 of the world’s biggest clubs would be breaking away to form their own Super League.
Speaking for the first time since the league was announced, the league’s new chairman Real Madrid president Florentino Perez said the change is necessary to “save football at this critical moment.”
“Audiences are decreasing and rights are decreasing and something had to be done. We are all ruined,” Perez said. “Young people are no longer interested in football. Why not? Because there are a lot of poor quality games and they are not interested, they have other platforms on which to distract themselves.”
Real have been joined in the venture by two other Spanish clubs, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
Premier League clubs Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have also signed up to the plans. The founding group of 12 is completed by Italian Serie A trio AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus.
Some of the fiercest reaction to the move, which would effectively replace the Champions League, came from fans of the breakaway clubs themselves.
A banner hung on the railings outside Anfield bearing a pointed message to Liverpool’s American ownership: “Shame on you. RIP LFC 1892-2021.”
Liverpool’s players arrived for an English Premier League match at Leeds United’s Elland Road a few hours later, to the backdrop of jeers and abusive chants by fans gathered outside the stadium.
“We feel we can no longer give our support to a club which puts financial greed above integrity of the game,” said Spion Kop 1906, a Liverpool fans’ group which organizes the flags and banners on the famous Kop stand inside Anfield.
The group has asked Liverpool to take down the displays for the team’s next home game, against Newcastle on Saturday.
The owners of “the dirty dozen” — as some are calling the rebel clubs — were largely quiet as soccer reels from their behind-the-scenes pact. Their only mouthpieces are the teams’ coaches, who must speak to the media before and after matches.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp looked uncomfortable as he was asked what he thought of a Super League project he openly condemned back in 2019.
“My opinion didn’t change,” Klopp told British broadcaster Sky Sports, suggesting he remained against the formation of a Super League and therefore openly opposing the scheming of Liverpool’s ownership, Fenway Sports Group.
“I obviously have no issue with the Champions League,” he said. “I like the competitive fact of football.”
Many others aren’t so sure, with reaction to the proposals ranging from humor and sarcasm to outright condemnation and fury.
Former Man United midfielder Ander Herrera is one of the few current players to speak out against the proposal. Herrera plays for Paris Saint-Germain, the French champion which is so far refusing to take part in the Super League alongside big clubs in Germany like Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
“I believe in an improved Champions League,” Herrera told his 2.7 million followers on Twitter, “but not in the rich stealing what the people created, which is nothing other than the most beautiful sport on the planet.”
French clubs got a pat on the back from the country’s president, Emmanuel Macron, whose office said the proposed league “threatens the principal of solidarity and sporting merit.”
The French government’s sports minister, Roxana Maracineanu, criticized the proposed breakaway as “a VIP club to conquer the world, but a world conquest based only on marketing and sales, not sport.”
The plan to rip up European soccer is being fronted by mostly foreign-owned clubs but one team with North American leadership was happy to announce its intention to keep the status quo.
In Spain, Real Betis published its own updated version of the league standings on the home page of its website, removing the three teams who have signed up to join the Super League: The current top three of Atlético, Real Madrid and Barcelona.
That left Betis in third place in the club’s revised standings and its big local rival, Sevilla, in first.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.