'Shocked to the core': Billionaire's fury over Super League backlash

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Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is pictured here looking glum during a match.
Roman Abramovich's Chelsea pulled out of the European Super League after fierce backlash to the breakaway league. Pic: Getty

Notoriously moody Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich was reportedly left furious amid one of the most chaotic days in recent football history.

On a day where the Russian billionaire's club became one of six English teams to pull out of the controversial European Super League, Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward - one of the key figures behind the plan - announced that he was stepping down from his role at the end of 2021.

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Following the withdrawal of England's 'big six' from the Super League, Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan also announced that they had abandoned plans to join, while AC Milan and Juventus released statements conceding that the breakaway league was unlikely to go ahead.

In just 48 hours since initial confirmation about the Super League stunned and outraged the majority of the football world, English football fans forced four billionaires, a Russian oligarch and an Emirati sheikh into a hasty retreat.

Chelsea owner Abramovich - worth an estimated $19.17 billion - was understood to be left “shocked to the core by how quickly everything had fallen apart”, with a source close to the club boss saying he “had no idea that there would be such a backlash”.

The Guardian claims Abramovich “took the first step” to withdraw Chelsea from the contentious breakaway group after instructing club executives to draft up plans to pull out.

“This was a case of a man known for looking notably unimpressed by most things taking a look at the collapsing edifice around him and thinking: ‘Right, this is done’,” Barney Ronay wrote.

Chelsea's eventual decision to pull the pin on their Super League involvement followed hot on the heels of Manchester City, with Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham soon following suit.

On the back of a fans' revolt, governments and governing bodies mobilised to threaten the "dirty dozen" with expulsion from domestic and continental competitions.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson even proposed dropping a "legislative bomb" on the Premier League "big six" threatening to breakaway.

Pictured here, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich attends a Blues match.
Roman Abramovich was reportedly stunned by the outrage to the European Super League plan. Pic: Getty

United, Liverpool and Arsenal are owned by US-based billionaires, used to working in the American sports franchise model without the perils of having to earn a place in the top leagues every year by performing on the pitch.

Chelsea and Manchester City have become global brands on the back of investment from Roman Abramovich and Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mansour.

Tottenham are the only British-owned club of the six, but even their billionaire owner, Joe Lewis, resides in the Bahamas.

Club heavyweights apologise to fans

With their tails firmly between their legs, club heavyweights such as Liverpool owner John Henry and United co-chairman Joel Glazer offered grovelling apologies to fans.

"In this endeavour I’ve let you down," Liverpool's owner said in a humiliating back-down.

"Again, I'm sorry, and I alone am responsible for the unnecessary negativity brought forward over the past couple of days.

"It’s something I won’t forget. It shows the power the fans have today and will rightly continue to have."

In the case of United co-chairman Glazer - a notoriously private man who rarely comments on the club - his open letter to fans was telling.

Seen here, Manchester United executives Avram and Joel Glazer.
Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer (right) wrote a public apology to the club's fans. Pic: Getty

"You made very clear your opposition to the European Super League, and we have listened. We got it wrong, and we want to show that we can put things right," Glazer wrote.

"Although the wounds are raw and I understand that it will take time for the scars to heal, I am personally committed to rebuilding trust with our fans and learning from the message you delivered with such conviction.

"We continue to believe that European football needs to become more sustainable throughout the pyramid for the long-term. However, we fully accept that the Super League was not the right way to go about it.

"In seeking to create a more stable foundation for the game, we failed to show enough respect for its deep-rooted traditions –promotion, relegation, the pyramid – and for that we are sorry.

Supporters pushing for change

Buoyed by their victory, fans' groups are now rallying to build on their momentum for further change, starting with the boardrooms of their own clubs.

The Manchester United Supporters' Trust (MUST) said: "This must be a turning point for football, and it must be a turning point for United too."

The Glazer family's controversial leveraged buy-out of the Red Devils in 2005 has left the club picking up the bill for hundreds of millions of pounds in interest payments, while the Glazers regularly take out dividends.

"This is a real opportunity for the Glazers to now change the current path of their legacy and open the door to supporter shareholding with full voting rights," added the MUST.

The Chelsea Supporters Trust said it had "little or no confidence in our current leadership at board level".

There remains a long road ahead for supporters if they want to oust unpopular owners. The valuations of the six Premier League clubs are in the billions.

But for once the collective power of the humble fan has brought down the plans of billionaires to further line their pockets.

with agencies

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