MANCHESTER, England, April 20 (Reuters) - England's Premier League teams withdrew from the European Super League on Tuesday leaving the project in tatters just 48 hours after it was launched.
Manchester City were the first to leave followed by Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. Chelsea are also preparing to abandon the breakaway and will confirm their decision soon, according to British media reports.
Fans gathered in large numbers outside Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium ahead of their Premier League match against Brighton & Hove Albion to protest against proposals to form a 12-team breakaway league to rival the Champions League.
English football's 'Big Six', along with Spain's Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid and Italy's AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus , announced on Sunday they were launching a breakaway competition.
There has been no confirmation from the other clubs yet over whether they will also withdraw.
The Super League has faced widespread opposition from within the game and beyond.
Even before their team confirmed they would be withdrawing, Liverpool's players added their voices to the growing opposition to the proposal on Tuesday.
"We don't like it and we don't want it to happen," captain Jordan Henderson tweeted, with many of his team mates posting the same message. "That is our collective position. Our commitment to this club is absolute and unconditional. You'll Never Walk Alone."
The sports governing bodies, other teams and fan organisations said the Super League would increase the power and wealth of the elite clubs and the partially closed structure of the league goes against European football's long-standing model.
Liverpool and City both issued brief statements on their withdrawal, with United insisting their change of heart was down to the backlash they had received.
"We have listened carefully to the reaction from our fans, the UK government and other key stakeholders," their statement read.
"We remain committed to working with others across the football community to come up with sustainable solutions to the long-term challenges facing the game."
Arsenal were much more apologetic in an open letter to fans.
"We needed no reminding of this but the response from supporters in recent days has given us time for further reflection and deep thought," the club said.
"It was never our intention to cause such distress, however when the invitation to join the Super League came, while knowing there were no guarantees, we did not want to be left behind to ensure we protected Arsenal and its future.
"As a result of listening to you and the wider football community over recent days we are withdrawing from the proposed Super League. We made a mistake, and we apologise for it."
Arsenal's north London rivals Tottenham thanked supporters for voicing their views.
"We regret the anxiety and upset caused by the ESL proposal," chairman Daniel Levy said.
"We felt it was important that our club participated in the development of a possible new structure that sought to better ensure financial fair play and financial sustainability whilst delivering significantly increased support for the wider football pyramid.
"We believe that we should never stand still and that the sport should constantly review competitions and governance to ensure the game we all love continues to evolve and excite fans around the world.
"We should like to thank all those supporters who presented their considered opinions."
(Reporting by Simon Evans and Peter Hall Editing by Toby Davis)