London (AFP) – Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur fans enjoy a fierce rivalry but the announcement of the European Super League achieved the rare feat of uniting them virtually as one in condemning it.
Both the north London clubs — just four miles (6.4 kilometres) apart — make up the Premier League big six that signed up to the breakaway league that has sent shockwaves through the sport.
The competition threatens to completely shake up the world’s biggest sport and leaves UEFA’s flagship Champions League facing an uncertain future.
The clubs, most of them saddled with debt and large wage bills, and hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, stand to benefit financially.
US investment bank JPMorgan confirmed it is financing the breakaway league.
The founding clubs will share 3.5 billion euros for infrastructure investment and to offset pandemic costs, and are expected to receive a further 10 billion euros in “solidarity payments” over the life of the initial commitment — much more than is available in the current Champions League.
The 15 eventual founder members will be guaranteed to play each year in a competition which is intended to take place in midweek, allowing clubs in theory to continue participating in their domestic leagues.
However, such figures left Arsenal and Spurs fans — many of whom have suffered in the pandemic through losing their jobs or ill health — cold.
Their antipathy comes despite both clubs struggling to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Arsenal’s best hope lies in winning the Europa League — they are in the semi-finals — whilst Spurs are five points off fourth-placed West Ham in the league.
Tim Payton, a board member of the Arsenal Supporters Trust (AST), told AFP the Super League would be “the death of football”, going against ideals of “sporting competition and qualifying on merit”.
“We need the FA (Football Association) and the Premier League to be firm with these clubs,” he said. “Kick them out, don’t let them play.
“How much money are they going to earn if they can’t sell season tickets for next year in the Premier League? We must challenge this at every level.”
Arsenal fan Daron Doolan, a 38-year-old London taxi driver, said greed had blinded the clubs. “It’s terrible, it’s just greed taking over, really,” he told AFP.
“They don’t think about the fans, all the fans that travel to all the games as well.
“It’s going to ruin all the money passed on to grassroots football, it’s completely going to destroy the whole structure of the English football.
“I think they didn’t take the fans’ into consideration at all, it’s all about greed and business.”
– ‘It is disgusting’ –
However, another Gunners fan 57-year-old healthcare worker Antonio Gazzella was a rare voice speaking up in support of the breakaway.
“I’m happy with that,” he told AFP.
“I would like to watch AC Milan, Real Madrid or Arsenal with Bayern Munich (who are not part of the breakaway), the big boys’ business.
“Arsenal playing with Slavia Prague — no disrespect — but Slavia Prague don’t have the big names to play with Arsenal.”
Spurs fans had to contend with a second piece of news affecting the club on Monday that Jose Mourinho had been sacked after just 17 months.
The fans shed few tears over his firing but their anger over the Super League was evident.
Maddie Watson, a 16-year-old schoolgirl, said outside the club’s ground that she felt “betrayed because they don’t think about the fans”.
“It is disgusting to do it in a pandemic when people are losing so much money and they are doing this super league just to gain more money,” she said.
Delboy Johnson, 67, a retired lorry driver, used some colourful language to sum up his feelings before adding: “I think it should stay the way it is.
“I have been a Tottenham supporter for 40 years. This is not the right way to go about it.”
Another Spurs fan, unemployed Gary Goodman, 57, said it went against what football historically stood for in England.
“It’s not fair. This is a football country. Keep it for the fans.”
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