Football

Lille chief hails unity of French clubs in snub of European Super League

Olivier Létang, president of Ligue 1 pacesetters Lille, has hailed the solidarity of his counterparts at other leading French clubs in rejecting the lure of the European Super League.
Olivier Létang, president of Ligue 1 pacesetters Lille, has hailed the solidarity of his counterparts at other leading French clubs in rejecting the lure of the European Super League. FRANCOIS LO PRESTI AFP

Lille supremo Olivier Létang praised the owners of Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon for steering clear of a planned 20-team European Super League.

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Six English clubs and three from Italy and Spain announced themselves on Sunday as founding members of a new lucrative midweek competition to start this autumn.

Létang, who has been Lille president since December 2020, told the Canal +  show Football Club: "What is important is the unity that we found on the subject, between French clubs.

“It seems difficult to me that those who have performed well on the field do not participate in competitions. We are touching on what makes the essence of sport."

Quest

Lille are trying to win their first Ligue 1 title since 2011. They boast 70 points, one more than second-placed PSG with five games remaining of the 2020/21 season.

Monaco and Lyon lie two and three points adrift of Lille respectively.

"It is not necessary to take a personal position,” said Létang, a former professional footballer.

“But we are not used to the principle of a closed league in Europe. We are used to meritocracy.”

The owners of the founding teams - including Champions League semi-finalists Chelsea, Manchester City and Real Madrid - said that after competing in the ESL they would take part in their domestic championships on the weekend.

Outrage

French president Emmanuel Macron and the British prime minister Boris Johnson have been among the top politicians who have criticised the concept.

Administrators of the leagues in which the teams play have warned the clubs that they could be thrown out of their championships.

European football’s governing body Uefa, which organises the Champions League, has also threatened to expel the clubs in the semi-finals from this year’s competition.

And Gianni Infantino, the boss of world football’s governing body Fifa, ramped up the pressure on the breakaway formation.

"If some elect to go their own way then they must live with the consequences of their choice," Infantino told Uefa’s congress in the Swiss city of Montreux on Tuesday.

“They are responsible for their choice - 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.”

Fans

Supporters' groups across the continent have condemned the plans for a self-styled elite.

Fans of Leeds United protested outside Elland Road on Monday night ahead of their club’s Premier League game against Liverpool, one of the other founding members.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said he resented the demonstration because neither he nor his players had been consulted about the decision of the club's owners.

“The team has nothing to do with it,” Klopp told Sky Sports after reiterating his opposition to a breakaway league.

The German, who led Liverpool to the 2019 Champions League title, said he liked the fact that West Ham United - not one of the 12 founding members - could play in the Champions League next year if they finished in the top four places in England.

"I don't want them to, because I want Liverpool to do that,” he said. “But I like that they have the chance.”

Klopp added: “Fifa wants a Club World Cup ... that's about money, nothing else. It happens ... it's not only these breakaway clubs."

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