Tuesday, June 15, 2021

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FIFA’s Infantino Issues Super League Warning; P.S.G. Won’t Join It

As opposition mounts to the new breakaway European soccer league, Paris St.-Germain joins other top teams in saying it will not join.

Either you are in, or you are out.

The president of world soccer’s governing body, FIFA, delivered a short but powerful message to the dozen rich and powerful European clubs whose planned breakaway Super League has threatened to upend the decades-old structures that underpin the world’s most powerful sport.

“If some elect to go their own way then they must live with the consequences of their choice, they are responsible for their choice,” the FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, said in an address to European soccer leaders at their congress in Montreux, Switzerland. “Concretely this means, either you are in, or you are out. You cannot be half in and half out. This has to be absolutely clear.”

Infantino’s intervention came amid mounting fury against a proposed European Super League that has turned the sports project into a national emergency in the three countries — England, Spain and Italy — that are home to its 12 founding members.

In Britain, which is providing half of the breakaway group’s members, Prime Minister Boris Johnson met Tuesday with fan representatives and leaders of the Premier League. Later, his office pledged to do whatever it takes to stop the multibillion-dollar competition from proceeding, vowing that nothing was off the table.

“We are exploring a range of options, including legislative ones,” said Max Blain, Johnson’s spokesman.

The comments came as the French champion Paris St.-Germain joined the growing list of elite clubs who have said they will not take part in the new league.

Nasser al-Khelaifi, the P.S.G. chairman, pledged his support to UEFA and its existing Champions League, the event that has been European soccer’s elite competition for more than half a century.

“We believe that any proposal without the support of UEFA — an organization that has been working to progress the interests of European football for nearly 70 years — does not resolve the issues currently facing the football community, but is instead driven by self-interest,” he said.

Al-Khelaifi’s disavowal came after similar ones on Monday by the leaders of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, two German powerhouses who had been seen as candidates to complete the Super League’s permanent 15 club membership. The Dutch club Ajax Amsterdam, a four-time European champion, also said it would not take part.

The backlash to the proposal has been withering and widespread, with advocates for the tournament increasingly hard to find. Even figures associated with the teams that have signed up to the project — which is being backed by the American investment bank JPMorgan Chase — have expressed their disappointment.

Jürgen Klopp, the German coach of the English champion Liverpool and a longtime opponent of the type of closed competition his team has agreed to support, said he would be speaking with the club’s American owners about the plan. By Tuesday morning, Klopp, who is hugely popular in England after leading Liverpool to domestic and European titles in the last two years, became the favorite among oddsmakers to be the next coach to leave a Premier League club.

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