Leeds summed up their indignation at the proposed European Super League and Liverpool’s support of it by laying out T-shirts for their rivals before Monday night’s meeting of the clubs at Elland Road, telling them that Champions League qualification had to be earned on the pitch rather than in negotiations for a closed-shop competition.
Leeds took the field for their warm-up wearing the shirts, which had the slogan: ‘Champions League: Earn it’ on the front. On the reverse a second slogan read: ‘Football is for the fans.’
Leeds had got their kit man to place more of the shirts in front of each locker in the away dressing room so that Liverpool’s players and staff members were greeted by them. It was an illustration of the strength of feeling between Leeds – a member of the League’s ‘Other 14’ – and Liverpool, one of the ‘Big Six’ who have signed up to the new European tournament.
Outside Elland Road, Leeds and Liverpool fans gathered to protest against the proposal, with members of the Leeds Supporters’ Trust holding up a banner carrying a quote from their manager, Marcelo Bielsa. It read: “One of the reasons football is the most popular sport in the world is because the weak can beat the powerful.” Before kick-off, a plane carrying a banner with #SayNoToEuropeanSuperLeague was flown over the stadium.
Jürgen Klopp was asked for his thoughts on the shirts in his pre-match interview, although the Liverpool manager appeared to misinterpret their meaning slightly. “I heard that there are warm-up shirts,” Klopp said. “We will not wear them, we cannot.
“And if somebody thinks they have to remind us that you have to earn it to go to the Champions League then it’s a joke, a real joke, and it makes me angry. They have put them in our dressing room. If it was Leeds’ idea, thank you very much. Nobody needs to remind us. Maybe they should remind themselves.”