‘War-time opportunists’ - UEFA president on Super League ‘idea’ impacting Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs

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UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin has been speaking at the Financial Times Business of Football Summit

UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin has branded European Super League conspirators 'war-time opportunists' as he reiterated the European governing body's stance on any future breakaway.

In April 2021 a selection of 12 of European football's biggest clubs announced their plan to form a separate competition, outside of UEFA's umbrella. Six English clubs - Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur - were joined by Inter Milan, Juventus, AC Milan, Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, and Real Madrid in signing up for the deal.

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Within days, however, amid fierce public anger and international scrutiny, plans were scrapped.

Now, though, it's expected those plans could be reignited, with Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli continuing to head up the project publicly.

Speaking at the Financial Times Business of Football Summit, Čeferin made it clear UEFA's standpoint had not softened in the near 12 months elapsed since the debacle was originally announced.

And Čeferin referred to ESL plotters as crisis opportunists, immune to worldly awareness, given they launched their first project in a pandemic, then time their second push while war sweeps Ukraine.

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"I have to say speaking about the Super League is not speaking about football, but let's speak about it anyway. I am sick and tired of speaking about this non-football project," said Čeferin.

"First they launched their nonsense of an idea in the middle of the pandemic. Now we are reading articles every day about them planning to launch another idea now, in the middle of war. Do I have to speak more about those people? They obviously live in a parallel world.

"While we are working to save players with other stakeholders, in a terrible situation - they are working on a project like that.

"Look, they can pay whoever they want to write that this is a nice project, that they are full of solidarity, that they will give some charity to small ones (clubs). This is complete nonsense. And everyone bar them knows that."

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Taking aim at Agnelli, also a keynote speaker at the glitzy FT event in Mayfair, London, Čeferin continued: "Even one of them, after this, called me to apologise. And then they go again.

"For them fans are customers, for us fans are fans. For us, football is about football players and fans - all of the rest is just a supporting team.

"They are criticising UEFA and ECA. One of them was chairman of the ECA. I have quotes from one of them praising the ECA, a week before.

"Fans are not important to them. Fans launched a petition saying 'No More Super League'. They don't care about that.

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"They can play their own competition, no one forbids them to play in it. But if they play in their own competition, they cannot play in our competition."

In a sobering interview, Čeferin updated the footballing world on UEFA's work in helping players get out of war-torn Ukraine - as well as talking about the decision to ban Russia and Russian clubs from all competitions.

"It is very hard. Nobody, at least from our side, expected that the war in Europe could happen these days. The situation is changing and evolving every day," he said.

"We are doing things and we are not tweeting about it, we are really doing it. I was on the phone for 48 hours with players, coaches, foreign players and coaches to help them leave Ukraine during the war.

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"We spoke 24 hours per day. I asked all of the governments for help but all of the governments could not help as they could not guarantee safety. Everybody said they should stay there as it's the safest thing to do. I understand the governments as it is hard to take responsibility but we have to do it, together with the football association of Ukraine and neighbouring countries.

"It is hard for me to explain how tough, hard and sad those conversations were.

"One of those players who got out of Ukraine came to my home two days ago. Another was here (UEFA HQ) today. You have to know I have got photos from their side of when they were there with families, with children of four and three months, bombs exploding outside.

"This is bigger than football - and I am proud of the football family, standing together to help where we could. We have lots of things like this that are not public. We are working 24/7 to do our part.

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"It is very hard to say what can happen tomorrow. We are just hoping and praying that the war stops.

"This madness should stop as soon as possible."

On the exclusion of Russian sides from UEFA competitions, he continued: "At this moment it is impossible to say. At the moment our decision was the right decision, it was a unanimous decision of the executive committee of UEFA. What will happen tomorrow, nobody knows.

"I cannot give an answer. For now it stays as it is and we are waiting for peace to come. Football will be the least important thing.

"The decision of our executive committee is that all teams: youth, men, women and club are out of competitions. That is the decision now.

"We banned the Russian clubs and it was the correct decision. But it makes me sad that athletes cannot play. But there is no other decision."

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