David Beckham on Monday became the latest prominent soccer figure to oppose a controversial plan announced by 12 elite European clubs to create a breakaway "Super League."
[Related: The European Super League, explained]
Beckham, who played for Manchester United, Real Madrid and AC Milan – three of the 12 Super League founders – wrote on Instagram that "the game we love is in danger."
The entire structure of European soccer is based on a system of promotion and relegation, and of qualification for top leagues based on sporting merit. The Super League founders have proposed a system in which they, the richest clubs, would be immune to relegation, and permanently in the "Super League," no matter how successful or unsuccessful they are on the field.
"I’m someone who loves football," Beckham wrote, calling the sport by its name in his native England. "It has been my life for as long as I can remember. I loved it from when I was a young child as a fan, and I’m still a fan now. As a player and now as an owner I know that our sport is nothing without the fans. We need football to be for everyone. We need football to be fair and we need competitions based on merit."
The last line, some fans pointed out, is ironic coming from Beckham, now a co-owner of Inter Miami, a team that bought its way into MLS, a league without promotion and relegation, where participation is not based on sporting merit.
But his criticism echoed that of multiple former teammates and current players, many of whom sided with fans, many of whom are furious.
Fellow Man United legend Eric Cantona said: "The fans are the most important thing in football. They have to be respected. Did these big clubs ask their fans what they thought about this idea? No, unfortunately. And that's a shame."
On Monday evening, Liverpool became the first Super League founder to play a game since the announcement. Afterwards, midfielder James Milner said Liverpool players had learned about the club's plans just as everyone else did.
"There's a lot of questions," Milner said of the Super League. "I can only say my personal opinion, I don't like it, and hopefully it doesn't happen."
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