Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta revealed he received a personal apology from the club’s owners as he saw supporters send the “strongest message” in the history of football to bring to an end plans for a breakaway European Super League.
The Gunners were one of six Premier League clubs to announce on Sunday night that they had signed an agreement to form a new competition with other elite teams from across Europe.
The response from supporters and the wider footballing world was almost completely negative to the extent that, by Tuesday evening, Arsenal – as well as Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham – withdrew from the process.
Arsenal’s statement was praised for acknowledging their misjudgement and apologising to supporters – while Arteta said he had also had direct communication with the Kroenke family, who own the club.
Asked if an apology was forthcoming, he replied: “Yes, absolutely.
“They (the owners) have the maximum responsibility to run the football club and what they said was: ‘apologies for disturbing the team, we did it without the capacity to communicate in a different way earlier and pass on my message to the players’ – that is all you can ask for.
“I found out just a little bit before the news was leaked. And then everything was completely out of control and the world reacted in a really unified manner.
“There was not really time to think about it, reflect and evaluate or anything because by the time that was out, a big tsunami already came onto it and basically killed it.
“Vinai (Venkatesham, chief executive) spoke to me and explained a little bit what was happening. He was very clear and transparent with me. I understand the reasons why we could not know. We were not involved in the decision.”
Arteta spoke freely and at length about the issues of the previous week and believes the speedy backtracking from Premier League clubs served only to show how important the sport is to fans.
“I think this has given big lessons and it shows the importance of football in the world,” said Arteta.
“And it shows that the soul of this sport belongs to the fans – and that’s it. During this pandemic, for a year, we have been trying to sustain this industry with no fans in the stadium.
“But, when the fans have to come out and talk, they’ve done it really loud and clear, and they sent probably the strongest message that has ever been sent in the football world.
“And every club, leaving their interests apart, has done the right thing – which is, they are the ones (the fans), we have to listen to them, we put it aside and in 24 hours we kill the project.
“So that is a massive statement for the history of football.”
Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti felt the Super League clubs were wrong to disregard the opinions of players and fans.
“My immediate reaction was they are joking, ‘Is it a joke?’,” he said.
“For every supporter of football it was a strange day, a surprise. We heard about the Super League in the past few months but I was sure it was not going to happen. What can I say? They were wrong.
“The clubs were wrong because they didn’t take into consideration the players, managers and supporters.
“They wanted to build a competition without sporting merit. This is not acceptable because in our culture, we were brought up to have sporting merit. They were wrong – full stop.”
While Ancelotti is not a fan of the Super League, the 61-year-old does think the Champions League can be improved significantly.
“I think that the Super League as they proposed it is impossible, but a new way of Champions League I think (can be achieved),” said the Italian, who has managed at some of Europe’s leading sides, including Juventus, AC Milan, Paris St Germain, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich as well as Chelsea.
“I think in 2024 there will be a new format for the Champions League and on there I think that they can talk and find the best solution to have this competition more and more exciting and competitive.
“Everyone of us wants the Champions League to be more competitive. It gets exciting from March. It could be exciting from September.
“The new format will be better, it will be more exciting from the beginning, but I think that the 12 clubs were not happy about that. If they were happy, they could accept this.”
LaLiga president Javier Tebas, though, was scathing about the ailing project, which still has Spanish clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona attached to it despite the majority of the founder clubs withdrawing in the last two days.
“These plans have dissolved like a lump of sugar,” Tebas said. “If it (the Super League) was good for football, as (Real Madrid president) Florentino Perez has said, they wouldn’t have done it behind our backs.”
Tebas, though, resisted calls for retribution.
“Everyone wants to cut people’s heads off. We have to have a procedure and we have to see how it looks in the end,” he said. “These clubs have been sanctioned by their own fans.”