Arsenal owner Kroenke apologises to Arteta

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April 23, 2021
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    The world reacted in a unified manner – Arteta

    Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta says owner Stan Kroenke has apologised to him over the club's aborted attempt to join the European Super League.

    The Spaniard added that football fans had sent "the strongest message" over their opposition to the ESL.

    Arteta said he had spoken to Kroenke, while Arsenal chief executive Vinai Venkatesham had addressed the players.

    He said they accepted the ESL episode "has had terrible consequences and it was a mistake".

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    The Gunners were one of 12 clubs, including English counterparts Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham, to sign up to the ESL, which was announced on Sunday.

    All six withdrew on Tuesday, with Arsenal apologising in an open letter to their fans.

    "They [the owners] have the maximum responsibility to run the football club and what they said was: 'apologies for disturbing the team, we did it without the capacity to communicate in a different way earlier and pass on my message to the players' – that is all you can ask for," said Arteta.

    "I found out just a little bit before the news was leaked. And then everything was completely out of control and the world reacted in a really unified manner.

    "There was not really time to think about it, reflect and evaluate or anything because by the time that was out, a big tsunami already came on to it and basically killed it.

    "Vinai spoke to me and explained a little bit what was happening. He was very clear and transparent with me.

    "I understand the reasons why we could not know. We were not involved in the decision."

    'The soul of this sport belongs to the fans'

    The proposed new league was condemned by fans, football authorities and government ministers in the UK, and across Europe by Uefa and league associations.

    Around 1,000 fans gathered outside Chelsea's Stamford Bridge ground before their game against Brighton on Tuesday to protest at their club's involvement.

    "I think this has given big lessons and it shows the importance of football in the world," said Arteta.

    "And it shows that the soul of this sport belongs to the fans – and that's it. During this pandemic, for a year, we have been trying to sustain this industry with no fans in the stadium.

    "But, when the fans have to come out to talk, they've done it really loud and clear, and they sent probably the strongest message that has ever been sent in the football world.

    "And every club, leaving their interests apart, has done the right thing – which is, they are the ones [the fans], we have to listen to them, we put it aside and in 24 hours we kill the project.

    "So that is a massive statement for the history of football."

    BBC sports editor Dan Roan has reported that senior executives from the six Premier League clubs who agreed to join the ESL are being asked to stand down from various league working groups – or face being voted out by the top flight's other 14 clubs.

    Everton accused the six of " preposterous arrogance" and "disrespect", while their manager Carlo Ancelotti said he thought it was a "joke" when he heard about the ESL plan.

    "For every supporter of football it was a strange day, a surprise," said Ancelotti, who has coached four of the 12 clubs who signed up for the ESL.

    "We've heard about it [before] but I was sure the Super League wasn't going to happen.

    "Those 12 clubs were wrong because I think they didn't take into consideration the opinion of two parts that are really important – the players and managers, and the supporters.

    "They wanted to build a competition without sport merit and this is not acceptable."

    Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson said he had been "disappointed" by events surrounding the ESL but that "the best thing that's happened has been the fans".

    Hodgson – who has managed two of the clubs who tried to break away, Liverpool and Inter Milan – said: "You could argue that fans of these clubs could have been quite happy to say, 'we're with you on this one and we're quite happy to make certain you never have to worry about the last game of the season and we are going to qualify for the Champions League or the Europa League because our place is guaranteed'.

    "The fact that the fans, as [Palace chairman] Steve [Parish] put it, voted for the right to lose is the most important thing of all."

    Burnley captain Ben Mee said the news of the breakaway "shocked" him and his team-mates. A meeting scheduled between the captains of Premier League teams to discuss the issue was cancelled after the English teams withdrew.

    "We were going to have a meeting on Wednesday but, thankfully, it wasn't necessary because the fans took action and I think owners realised what a mistake they had made," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

    "For our league, it would have been terrible. We've got the best league in the world. Other countries envy it – it's exciting. It's competitive and we certainly want to keep it that way."

    He added: "We've heard [former England and Manchester United defender] Gary Neville talking about about regulation, legislation and bringing things in to stop anything like this from happening, and it's got to be looked at, for sure."

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