‘Deduct points, deduct money and PUNISH them’: Gary Neville launches impassioned attack on Big Six

Gary Neville has launched an astonishing rant on English football’s Big Six after Sportsmail revealed their plans to join the breakaway European Super League competition on Sunday evening.

Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham all signed letters declaring their intention to join, which would end competition in domestic and continental football as fans know it.

European governing body UEFA said they would take legal action against the ‘cynical project’ if it went ahead, and a furious Neville insisted those clubs should have points deducted, money deducted and even taking their titles away as punishment.

Manchester United icon Gary Neville blasted the proposed plan as an 'absolute scandal'

Manchester United icon Gary Neville blasted the proposed plan as an 'absolute scandal'

Manchester United icon Gary Neville blasted the proposed plan as an ‘absolute scandal’

UEFA's Champions League is under serious threat of a breakaway league of the top teams including United, pictured winning UEFA's premier club competition in 1999

UEFA's Champions League is under serious threat of a breakaway league of the top teams including United, pictured winning UEFA's premier club competition in 1999

UEFA’s Champions League is under serious threat of a breakaway league of the top teams including United, pictured winning UEFA’s premier club competition in 1999

News of English football's Big Six planning to breakaway will be extremely damaging for UEFA and their president Aleksander Ceferin

News of English football's Big Six planning to breakaway will be extremely damaging for UEFA and their president Aleksander Ceferin

News of English football’s Big Six planning to breakaway will be extremely damaging for UEFA and their president Aleksander Ceferin

Launching into an incredible rant on Sky Sports, he said: ‘It’s been damned, and rightly so. I’m a Manchester United fan and I have been for 40 years of my life but I’m absolutely disgusted. I’m disgusted with Manchester United and Liverpool most. 

‘Liverpool, they pretend ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, the people’s club, the fans’ club. Manchester United, 100 years borne out of workers round here, and they’re breaking away into a league without competition, that they can’t be relegated from?

‘It’s an absolute disgrace and we have to wrestle back power in this country from the clubs at the top of this league, and that includes my club. I’ve been calling for 12 months as part of another group for an independent regulator to bring checks and balances in place to stop this happening. It’s pure greed, they’re impostors. 

‘The owners of this club, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City are nothing to do with football in this country. There are 100-odd years of history in this country of fans who have lived and loved these clubs, and the fans need protecting.

‘I benefited from football hugely, I’ve made money out of football, I invest money into a football club, I’m not against money in football. But the principles and ethos of fair competition, the rights to play the game so that Leicester can win the league and go into the Champions League.

UEFA STATEMENT IN FULL 

UEFA, the English Football Association and the Premier League, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and LaLiga, and the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and Lega Serie A have learned that a few English, Spanish and Italian clubs may be planning to announce their creation of a closed, so-called Super League.

If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we – UEFA, the English FA, RFEF, FIGC, the Premier League, LaLiga, Lega Serie A, but also FIFA and all our member associations – will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever.

We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way.

As previously announced by FIFA and the six Federations, the clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams.

We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this. We call on all lovers of football, supporters and politicians, to join us in fighting against such a project if it were to be announced. 

This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. 

Enough is enough.

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‘Manchester United aren’t even in the Champions League! Arsenal aren’t even in the Champions League! I watched them earlier, they’re an absolute shambles of a football club at the moment. Tottenham aren’t in the Champions League! 

‘And they want a God-given right to be in there? They’re an absolute joke and the time has come now for independent regulators, stop these clubs having this independent power base. Enough is enough. It’s greed. 

‘My reaction earlier on wasn’t an emotional reaction. Deduct them all points tomorrow, put them at the bottom of the league and take the money off them. Seriously, you have got to stamp on this. It’s criminal. 

‘It’s a criminal act against the football fans in this country, make no mistake. This is the biggest sport in the world, it’s the biggest sport in this country and it’s a criminal act against the fans, simple as that. Deduct points, deduct their money and punish them.

‘They’re bottle merchants. You never hear from the owners of these clubs, they’ve got no voice. They’ll probably say in a few weeks it’s nothing to do with them, they were only talking about it. 

‘Seriously, in the midst of a pandemic, an economic crisis, football clubs at National League level going bust nearly, furloughing players. Clubs on the edge in League One and Two and these lot are having Zoom calls about breaking away and basically creating more greed? Joke.

‘They’ll be amending that statement as we speak. They’ll have seen the reaction – not just from people on this channel and on social media or the government – and will be backtracking down the road because they’re bottle merchants, this lot.

‘Make no mistake about it, they’re bottle merchants. It was the same with (Project) Big Picture – they bottled out of that a week later. Listening to this tonight, you talk about big clubs, Man United have acted like a small club for eight to 10 years. 

‘They’re being a small club in mentality. Arsenal are acting like a small club. Some of the other clubs in the league that are missing out are that are actually doing well, they act like bigger clubs. Honestly! 

‘Being a big club is not just having a global fanbase, it’s acting properly at the right time. I’ve always thought Bayern Munich have always been a decent club.

‘I’d like to think Manchester United and Liverpool would stand there in the face of this and say ‘Something’s not right here, let’s collaborate with the game to try to get a better competition, a better Champions League.’ 

‘I’m not against the modernisation of competitions, competitions have moved forward over the last 100-odd years, I’m not for everything standing still but this is a grab, an absolute grab and the timing is hideous. 

‘What world are these people living in? To think they can bring this forward at this moment in time? They’ve got no loyalty to this country and these leagues. Enough is enough. 

‘There isn’t a football fan in this country that won’t be and shouldn’t be seething listening to this conversation and these announcements. Roy loves United, I love United, Micah loves Manchester City but this is disowning your own club stuff, this. 

‘I mean, seriously? How could you even think to come and watch a Super League here when you’ve left 14 other clubs in the Premier League behind to play against each other? Your Championship clubs dead? Your EFL 1 and 2 clubs dead?

Liverpool owner John W. Henry will act as one of the European Super League's vice-chairman

Liverpool owner John W. Henry will act as one of the European Super League's vice-chairman

Liverpool owner John W. Henry will act as one of the European Super League’s vice-chairman

Manchester United's American owners Joel (left) and Avram Glazer have backed the plans

Manchester United's American owners Joel (left) and Avram Glazer have backed the plans

Manchester United’s American owners Joel (left) and Avram Glazer have backed the plans

‘Your National League, your pyramid system you’ve fought for, for 150 years has gone because of six clubs? It’s absolutely embarrassing and it’s never going to happen. Let them break away. But honestly, punish them straight away. Just punish them. 

‘If they announce a letter of intent has been signed, as six clubs, they should be punished heavily. Massive fines, points deductions, take their titles off them, who cares. Give the title to Burnley. Let Fulham stay up, relegate United, Liverpool and Arsenal. 

‘Those three clubs are the history of this country, they’re the ones who should suffer most. Chelsea, City, new money in the game, they’ve come forward, I’m not happy with them either, to be clear. Tottenham I’m not that bothered about. 

‘Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, they should know better. The history and tradition that runs through those three clubs is absolutely enormous, I value it. But I tell you what, they leave a lot to be desired at this moment at this moment in time, the three of them. 

‘Liverpool Football Club. Seriously? You go on the streets of Liverpool, I don’t have a great relationship with them at all. I don’t like them, they don’t like me. 

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters wrote a letter to clubs warning them to walk away from European Super League plans before 'irreparable damage' was done as a result

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters wrote a letter to clubs warning them to walk away from European Super League plans before 'irreparable damage' was done as a result

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters wrote a letter to clubs warning them to walk away from European Super League plans before ‘irreparable damage’ was done as a result 

‘But the one thing I always thought about them is they were honest, they had integrity, they would look after their people, they would look after their own. That’s gone. Forget that. If they’ve signed that letter of intent, they’re as bad as the rest of them. 

Neville’s former United team-mate Roy Keane added: ‘It comes down to money, greed. Obviously we’ve heard nothing from FIFA yet but it doesn’t sound good, let’s hope they stop it in its tracks because it is just pure greed.

‘We talk about big clubs – Bayern Munich are one of the biggest clubs in the world. At least they’ve made a stand, which is a good start.’ 

Fellow pundit Micah Richards continued: ‘I agree with Roy. The Premier League has been run amazingly. We all know clubs are an investment, it’s a business at the end of the day but what happens to the fans?

‘What happens to the memories the fans have had over the years, they’re just forgotten about for the sake of money? That’s the way football has become now and it’s an absolute disgrace if I’m honest.’  

The new league – the news of which comes less than 24 hours before UEFA’s own proposals for a revamped Champions League – would highlight the American takeover of top-level European football, which would become a closed shop run by founder members. 

Neville's former United team-mate Roy Keane also spoke out on Sky Sports after the match

Neville's former United team-mate Roy Keane also spoke out on Sky Sports after the match

Neville’s former United team-mate Roy Keane also spoke out on Sky Sports after the match

The plan is for the Super League to evolve to roughly 15-18 teams, but the initial 12 signatories to the deal are the six English clubs.

Plus Spain’s Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid and Italy’s Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan. This leaves room for other major clubs like Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain to be picked off with UEFA’s own competitions hugely devalued.

 In a statement on Sunday, the Premier League condemned proposals that they feel ‘attacks the principles of open competition and sporting merit’.

‘Fans of any club in England and across Europe can currently dream that their team may climb to the top and play against the best,’ the statement continued. ‘We believe the concept of a European Super League would destroy this dream.’

 The six clubs are not intending to resign from domestic football, but need Premier League permission to join any new competitions. This could be the first sticking point because the Premier League board is unlikely to grant any request that weakens its own competitive value.

Fellow pundit Micah Richards criticised his former club Manchester City for their involvement

Fellow pundit Micah Richards criticised his former club Manchester City for their involvement

Fellow pundit Micah Richards criticised his former club Manchester City for their involvement

If they say no to the European Super League, as expected, the clubs will have to be break away from the Premier League entirely in order to join, putting in jeopardy their players’ participation in FIFA and UEFA competitions, such as the World Cup and European Championship respectively.

A letter sent to clubs by Premier League chief Richard Masters warned those involved to ‘walk away…before irreparable damage is done’, before adding clubs would need Premier League permission to enter a new competition – and Masters wrote ‘I cannot envisage any scenario where such permission would be granted.’

Fan groups were quick to come out and join the condemnation of the news that the Big Six are keen to join, with the the Football Supporters’ Association describing the European Super League as a project motivated ‘by nothing but cynical greed’.

Their statement said: ‘This competition is being created behind our backs by billionaire club owners who have zero regard for the game’s traditions and continue to treat football as their personal fiefdom. The FSA, and no doubt supporters across the continent, will continue to fight against its creation.’

FansEurope added in their own statement that the Super League ‘is illegitimate, irresponsible, and anti-competitive by design.’ 

RICHARD MASTERS’ LETTER

Dear Chairman/Chief Executive, 

I am writing to inform you of what we believe to be an imminent announcement of a European Super League concept, potentially involving a number of Premier League Clubs alongside others from Spain and Italy. 

Based on our understanding of the proposed European Super League concept it would sit outside the auspices of UEFA and the current European sporting pyramid, offering 15 founding members permanent access from as early as season 2022-23, rather than via the historic access principles of annual sporting merit. 

The Premier League Board met this morning and I wanted to make clear its position based on the information we have at our disposal. Such a European Super League would be deeply damaging to the European pyramid, the immediate and future prospects of the Premier League and its member Clubs and all those in football who rely on our funding and solidarity to prosper. 

We believe such a concept would be hugely unpopular with football fans across the continent, in particular here in England, where progress via sporting merit is central to the history and traditions of the national game and the rightful aspirations of all Clubs and their fans. We do not and cannot support such a concept. 

Premier League Rules contain a commitment amongst Clubs to remain within the football pyramid and forbid any Clubs from entering competitions beyond those listed in Rule L9, without Premier League Board permission. 

I cannot envisage any scenario where such permission would be granted. It is the duty of the Premier League Board to defend the integrity and future prospects of the League as a whole, and we will have no choice but to do everything we can to protect and maintain both. 

The consequences of attempting to proceed with a European Super League would be the immediate destabilisation of the Premier League and the English game as a whole, at a time when it needs precisely the opposite. 

This is a time when English football should be coming together as we emerge from the extraordinary challenges of the pandemic. As previously evidenced, we would expect complete condemnation from all parts of the game, fan groups and the UK Government. 

This venture cannot be launched without English Clubs and we call upon any Club contemplating associating themselves or joining this venture to walk away immediately before irreparable damage is done. 

A media statement will be issued on behalf of the Premier League and, should the announcement go ahead, we will call a meeting of Clubs to discuss the immediate implications and the Board’s recommended response. 

Both Gary and I are available to talk you through what we reliably know at this stage. 

Kind regards, 

Richard  

Richard Masters, Chief Executive

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