London (AFP) – Chelsea are the latest Premier League club to issue a grovelling apology to supporters for their involvement in plans for a breakaway European Super League (ESL), that collapsed within 48 hours this week.
The Blues were one of 12 clubs included in the proposals released on Sunday that would have seen 15 founding members compete in the tournament every year without having to qualify on the pitch.
The closed-shop format and repercussions for national leagues sparked outrage across the world from governments, governing bodies, players and fans.
In England, the reaction was particularly fierce with around 1,000 Chelsea fans protesting in front of Stamford Bridge ahead of Tuesday’s 0-0 draw with Brighton in the Premier League.
“The owner and board understand that involving the club in such a proposal was a decision we should not have taken. It is a decision we deeply regret,” Chelsea said in a statement.
“As concerns were raised following the announcement, the club took a step back to listen and speak to supporters. Following those conversations and taking into account the extremely strong views against the proposal, we reassessed our initial decision and decided we did not want to be part of this league.
“We also recognise the sentiment that had been expressed about whether the ESL relied strongly enough on sporting merit.
“This is something we had strong concerns about from the start and were confident would have been addressed during a further consultation process with various stakeholders, along with other concepts in the proposal about which we had reservations.
“We firmly believe that we must protect a structure which allows all clubs, players and supporters to dream of, and achieve, success.”
The reaction of the Chelsea fans helped hasten the ESL’s collapse as one by one on Tuesday night, the six English clubs involved all signalled their intention to withdraw.
The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust has called for resignations from the club’s board in light of the fiasco.
However, no members of the club’s hierarchy are yet to leave their positions.