Premier League clubs Chelsea and Manchester City were reported to be preparing the paperwork to withdraw from the breakaway European Super League less than 72 hours after agreeing to join it, in a major blow for the proposed new competition.
Shortly before the BBC reported that the two English clubs were set to back out of the breakaway competition, in Spain the new league went to court to stop the soccer authorities from thwarting its plans.
Chelsea and City were among the 12 teams who announced on Sunday that they were setting up a rival to UEFA’s Champions League without the need for annual qualification.
The announcement has prompted a wave of opposition from within the game, political world and public opinion, particularly in England.
The news that Chelsea, owned by Russian Roman Abramovich, were taking steps to pull away from the plan, was celebrated wildly by Chelsea fans who had been protesting outside their team’s behind closed-doors Premier League game against Brighton and Hove Albion.
Neither Chelsea, Manchester City nor the Super League organisation immediately responded to a request for comment.
The moves came shortly after the Super League won a preliminary ruling from a Madrid court to stop European soccer body UEFA and the sport’s global governing body FIFA from imposing sanctions designed to stop the new formation.
The company set up to run the new league is headquartered in Madrid and Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is the league’s first chairman.
The court said in a ruling seen by Reuters that FIFA, UEFA and all its associated federations must not adopt “any measure that prohibits, restricts, limits or conditions in any way” the Super League’s creation.
It was not immediately clear what authority the Madrid court, which adjudicates corporate disputes, had over the Swiss-based soccer bodies and a source close to UEFA said the organisation was “relaxed” about the ruling.
The Super League has been hoping that a mixture of defensive court actions and momentum would lead soccer’s authorities to accept their new competition within the game.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino said that the clubs cannot be “half in, half out” of the established framework.
UEFA has threatened to ban the 12 clubs, who include Manchester United and Real Madrid, from domestic and international competition, with Infantino adding his voice to the backlash.
“We strongly disapprove … if some go their own way then they must live with the consequences of their choice, either you are in, or you are out. You cannot be half in and half out,” Infantino told UEFA’s congress in Montreux, Switzerland.