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WRAPUP 2-Soccer-Super League shelved as clubs continue to withdraw from project

Simon Evans
·3 min read

* Juventus chairman says Super League cannot go ahead

* Inter Milan latest to pull out of project

* Liverpool owner apologises to fans in video (Adds comments from Juventus boss, British papers)

By Simon Evans

MANCHESTER, England, April 21 (Reuters) - The European Super League can no longer proceed, Juventus boss Andrea Agnelli confirmed on Wednesday as Italian club Inter Milan joined the six English teams in withdrawing from the controversial breakaway competition after intense criticism.

The project was announced on Sunday with 12 founding members but 48 hours later the English clubs capitulated under massive pressure from fans, politicians, soccer officials and even British royals.

Agnelli said he remained convinced about the merits of the Super League despite the overflowing criticism.

"I remain convinced of the beauty of that project," Agnelli told Reuters, adding that it would have created the best competition in the world.

"But admittedly ... I mean, I don't think that that project is now still up and running."

A source close to Inter Milan earlier confirmed to Reuters they were no longer interested in the project "in light of the latest developments".

Italian side AC Milan, Spain's Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid and the six English clubs were the other founding members of the league.

Liverpool's principal owner John Henry apologised in a video on the club's website and social media on Wednesday.

"It goes without saying but should be said that the project put forward was never going to stand without the support of the fans," he said.

"I alone am responsible for the unnecessary negativity brought forward over the past couple of days. It’s something I won’t forget. And shows the power the fans have today and will rightly continue to have."

Having triggered an enormous backlash from players, fans and football authorities, the Super League said late on Tuesday it would reconsider and look to "reshape" the project, while stopping short of throwing in the towel.

'BEAUTIFUL DAY'

The Super League had argued that it would increase revenues to the top clubs and allow them to distribute more money to the rest of the game.

However, the sport's governing bodies, other teams and fans organisations said the breakaway move would only boost the power and wealth of the elite clubs, and that the partially closed structure goes against European football's long-standing model.

Players, fans and pundits celebrated the U-turns of the English teams, with some declaring the Super League dead in the water.

"This is the right result for football fans, clubs, and communities across the country. We must continue to protect our cherished national game," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

"What a beautiful day for football. Let's keep playing, let's keep fighting, let's keep dreaming," said Manchester City defender Benjamin Mendy.

The British press also cheered the move of the Premier League clubs and the news dominated the front page of Wednesday's newspapers.

"Their knees have gone all trembly," screamed the headline on the front page of the Daily Star while the banner on the i paper called the withdrawal as "Own Goal".

A top official from the Council of Europe termed the project an "unfortunate initiative" and called on an inter-governmental sports co-ordination body to urgently discuss the ramifications of the proposed breakaway European Super League.

Amid fans' celebrations, anger remained. Some pundits said the owners of the English teams would never be forgiven and called on them to pull out.

"They were going to sell the souls of our major football institutions," said Liverpool great Graeme Souness.

"I don't know how these clubs will manage to get back on-side." (Reporting by Simon Evans, Elvira Pollina, Ian Ransom nd Sudipto Ganguly; Additional reporting by Giulia Segreti in Rome, Guy Faulconbridge in London, Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Christian Radnedge)