It will be remembered as a flash in the pan, but the recently proposed European Super League rocked soccer and, indeed, world sports to its foundations. It was an attempted power grab by the money men involved in the once beautiful game but one that was crushed by fans across the world.
With the teams confirmed, announcing their plans to break away and create a European Super League it looked like a done deal. It seemed so certain experts working on sports betting in Las Vegas were even making moves to accept bets on the competition’s first winners.
Cue a vicious backlash from supporters who said it went against everything the sport stood for. They rolled up their sleeves and, strengthened by the teams not invited to join the ESL; football supporters made their feelings clear. The competition wasn’t wanted, they would never support it, and it was a non-starter.
European Super League explained
What exactly is all the fuss about, and what is the European Super League? It was a football competition proposed to replace the UEFA Champions League. It was to consist of two leagues of teams with a round-robin format. The three highest finishing sides would progress to the knockout stages with a selection of others involved in a playoff to join them. The play would then start to whittle down the teams until left with two who met in the final.
Sounds exciting. What was the problem? The main problem for most football fans was the Super League was a closed shop, reserved for the wealthiest sides to get even richer. The 18 to 20 teams would rake in a massive income for their involvement, leaving everyone else on the outside looking in. No relegation sits well with the business heads behind the idea, but it wasn’t something that appealed to the average fan who viewed it as a robbery of all they held dear in sport.
Protests in England made government act
Six English Premier League clubs – Man Utd, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool and Man City – were involved in the ESL, making the shock announcement last week. It was a plan that must’ve been going on behind the scenes for quite some time, but the news seemed to catch most sports lovers off-guard. Added to the heightened tensions of the coronavirus lockdown that has seen supporters locked out of stadiums for more than a year in some parts of Europe, it was a recipe for disaster. This became obvious very quickly.
Hundreds of English football followers broke covid laws to gather in protest. They took their opposition to the streets, their team’s home arena, and even the training field. They acted swiftly, making worldwide news and causing panic. Police and club security were drafted in to help control the protests, which caught the eye of the UK government in London. British prime minister Boris Johnson became one of the most high profile names to break cover and condemn the English sides for their involvement in the Super League.
Clubs back down with some even apologising
Manchester City was the first club to announce their withdrawal, quickly followed by fellow English team Chelsea who informed the media of their sudden change of heart. Later that evening, the remaining Premier League teams pulled out.
The co-owner of Manchester United, Joel Glazer, penned an open letter to fans of the Red Devils in which he apologized for the club’s involvement in the European Super League and said they aimed to rebuild trust with fans. Across the city and Manchester City’s CEO, Ferran Soriano, wrote to fans and apologized for the mistake made and for the anguish it has caused during the fallout.
Liverpool John Henry was forced into a climb-down after he withdrew the Reds from the competition just 48 hours after signing up for it. An embarrassing episode for all concerned but not one a simple apology will fix. Fans and pundits are out for blood, and we could see heads roll. In the coming weeks, it’s possible those involved in the process of signing clubs up to the ESL scheme could lose their job or be shamed into selling up and moving on. The Super League is dead in the water, but we’ve not heard the last of this.
José Mourinho has denied tax fraud in Spain, saying the government had ratified his tax affairs.
The Manchester United manager was accused by prosecutors of defrauding Spain of €3.3 million ($3.6 million) in taxes while he was Real Madrid coach from 2011 to 2012.
A prosecutor said José Mourinho, 54, did not declare income from image rights in order to get an “illicit benefit”.
A statement released on José Mourinho’s behalf said he “has not received any notification”.
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It added: “To this date, neither the Spanish tax authorities, nor the public prosecutor have contacted Jose Mourinho or his advisers who were hired for the inspection process.”
The statement also said José Mourinho “paid more than €26 million in taxes, with an average tax rate of over 41%” during the three years until May 2013 and that he “entered into a settlement agreement” with the Spanish tax authorities after a change of rules in 2015.
José Mourinho has been accused of two counts of tax fraud – €1.6 million in 2011 and €1.7 million in 2012. The Madrid prosecutor said the case was presented to a local court.
Other prominent soccer figures have been accused of tax fraud in Spain in recent months.
Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who played under José Mourinho Mourinho and shares the same agent, is accused of defrauding tax authorities of €14.7 million, by also hiding his income from image rights.
Cristiano Ronaldo denies the accusations and is threatening to leave Spain. The Portuguese is set to give evidence in his case on July 31.
Real Madrid soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho have been accused of tax avoidance, according to claims based on a huge document leak.
They allegedly avoided paying tax on millions of dollars of earnings by moving large sums to the British Virgin Islands.
The allegations are said to be based on two terrabytes of leaked information which include original contracts.
Both of them deny the claims.
Photo Getty Images
Soccer agency Gestifute, which represents Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho, said in a statement: “Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho are fully compliant with their tax obligations with the Spanish and British tax authorities.
“Any insinuation or accusation made to Cristiano Ronaldo or Jose Mourinho over the commission of a tax offence will be reported to the legal authorities and prosecuted.”
The claims were published by an international consortium of journalists which obtained a trove of about 18 millions documents. Other top players were named in the documents.
The European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) consortium includes German newspaper Der Spiegel, Spain’s El Mundo and the UK’s Sunday Times. It says it intends to publish a series of articles under the banner “Football Leaks” over the next few weeks.
The leak comes eight months after the so-called Panama Papers lifted the lid on how the world’s rich and powerful use tax havens to hide their wealth.
One of the newspapers in the consortium, the Dutch NRC, alleges that Cristiano Ronaldo moved €63.5 million ($67.7 million) to the British Virgin Islands at the end of 2014.
The paper says Cristiano Ronaldo received sponsorship fees which were moved via two Irish companies to the tax haven, 11 days before Spain changed an advantageous tax law.
The NRC says the striker has so far not responded to questions asked by the consortium.
According to El Mundo, the leaked documents relate to the time that Jose Mourinho spent as manager of Real Madrid, between 2010 and 2013.
Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo’s current employer, did not respond to requests from news agencies for comment.
Manchester United said the allegations related to events before Jose Mourinho’s arrival at the club and so it would not comment.
Jose Mourinho is reported to have moved €12 million ($13.2 million) into a Swiss account owned by a British Virgin Islands company, according to the EIC.
According to the reports, December 2 first batch of leaks centered on “a system” put in place by Jorge Mendes, whose company has denied any wrongdoing.
Jorge Mendes’ company, Gestifute, said in a statement that neither Cristiano Ronaldo nor Jose Mourinho “have been implicated in legal proceedings of the tax evasion commission in Spain”.
Gestifute noted it had taken legal redress against claims of tax evasion and stressed it had always acted with “the highest degree of professionalism in relations with [its] clients and authorities”.
It accused the media consortium of operating in an “insidious” way concerning the stars’ tax obligations.
In recent years, all other major football nations have been playing catch up as they attempt to find a way of coping with the brilliance of the Spanish team. The combination of brilliant technique, fast pass-and-move football, and robust physical presence on the ball has made the Spanish team appear almost unstoppable over the last half decade. Having first captured the European Championships in 2008, to overcome the psychological nightmare of decades of underachievement, they went on to clinch the World Cup two years later and cement their status as the dominant force in international football. So with another major tournament in full swing, the question those watching the games and/or those involved with Euro 2012 Football Betting on sites like Bwin are asking is: will this domination continue?
When looking at the all-conquering achievements of the Spanish national team over the last half decade, it should be noted that this has been paralleled by a similar dominance in club football of the Spanish side Barcelona. Perhaps the apex of this was the final of the Champions League in 2011, when Barcelona took on the best team in England – Manchester United – and made them look second rate. However this season has seen frailties begin to appear in Barcelona’s armory, as they failed to win their domestic league and were knocked out of the Champions League in the semi-finals. When you consider that Spain’s other major team – Real Madrid – also fell at the same stage, this may offer some hope to the other teams.
Throw in the continued problems being experienced by Fernando Torres, and this is further grounds to think that Spain may not have things all their own way. However, we must keep things in perspective: Torres was struggling in 2010 and Spain still won the World Cup, while Champions League semi-final appearances by both Barcelona and Real Madrid hardly constitute a collapse in Spanish domestic football. The biggest encouragement for those hoping for a genuine challenger to Spain comes in the form of the strength of other sides – most notably Germany and the Netherlands – rather than the weakness of Spain.
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