The roar from outside Stamford Bridge reverberated around a corner of southwest London, but it was felt throughout the footballing world.
Chelsea's team bus was marooned outside their home ground, just a couple of hours before kickoff against Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday night. It led to Chelsea legend and the club's technical advisor, Petr Cech, coming out onto Fulham Road, pleading with Chelsea's fans to move on, promising to "sort it out" and reminding them "you have a team."
Twelve of the richest European soccer teams came up with an ingenious scheme to make even more money: Instead of taking part in a longstanding tournament with poorer and mostly weaker teams, they would create their own exclusive “Super League” to attract global interest, prestige, and cash.
There was just one problem: Fans hated the idea, and their revolt caused what would’ve been the biggest threat to the game in decades to dissipate after just 48 hours.
On Sunday, 12 of the richest teams from England, Spain, and Italy — the richest, mind you, not necessarily the best — announced they would create the European Super League. It would likely replace a more inclusive, preexisting annual tournament, the Champions League, where the top teams from European countries’ leagues compete to determine the continent’s strongest squad.
Then came the backlash, leading all six British teams and reportedly two Spanish teams to back out of the proposal after just two days of relentless fan pressure. The chair of one of them is on the verge of stepping down. And all clubs plan to discuss abandoning the idea, at least for the time being.
In just 48 hours, English football fans forced four billionaires, a Russian oligarch and an Emirati sheikh into a hasty retreat as the European Super League collapsed with the withdrawal of six Premier League clubs.
The owners of Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham had signed up with six other Spanish and Italian clubs to a money-spinning ESL project, but with far-reaching consequences for the rest of the football pyramid.
Owned by a Russian oligarch who isn't afraid to splash cash, Chelsea Football Club is one of the richest soccer teams in the world.
But when the Blues became part of the ill-fated European Super League last week, their fans — armed only with a few placards, banners and smartphones — believe they played a key role in spurring the club to withdraw, becoming unlikely heroes in a soap opera that riveted world soccer.
“One hundred percent we made a difference,” said Alex Burke, 25, a Chelsea fan who helps run “We Are The Shed,” a social media group for Blues fans that called on supporters to gather outside Stamford Bridge last Tuesday.
“Chelsea fans can get a bad rap for being ‘plastic fans’ or ‘glory hunters,’ but the protests showed we have strong, core support in touch with our roots. People might think it’s ironic seeing Chelsea fans do it, because we have links with big money,” he said, referring to owner Roman Abramovich’s petrodollars.
Manchester United's US owners are continuing to see fallout from a botched plan for a new European Super League, losing a kit sponsorship deal valued at 200 million pounds (almost R4bn), according to the Observer newspaper.
Manchester-based THG had been due to advertise its Myprotein brand on players’ kits, under a contract slated to start in July, the paper wrote on Sunday.
The online retailer scrapped the plan on Friday over concerns it may lead to a boycott of its products by local fans, the Observer reported. Earlier this month, supporters broke into Old Trafford stadium, protesting at a failed attempt by club owners, the Glazer family, to form a breakaway league for Europe’s elite teams.
The Blues have moved to increase supporter participation at the top level following their messy withdrawal from the project
Chelsea will allow supporter representatives to sit in at board meetings following the uproar that accompanied the club's presence in the abortive Super League.
Blues fans protested against their inclusion in the scheme, and they later joined their Premier League counterparts in swiftly withdrawing.
The Super League and its subsequent collapse led to heightened calls for more participation in club decisions from the fan base, a request Chelsea appear to be addressing with this move.