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UK ministers to do ‘everything’ to block new league

UK ministers to do 'everything' to block new league thumbnail

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image captionArsenal and Liverpool are two of the six English clubs involved in the European Super League

The government has said it will do “whatever it takes” to prevent a breakaway European Super League involving six English clubs.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said he was joining the “roars of outrage” over the move.

The Duke of Cambridge also said he shared fans’ concerns about “the damage it risks causing to the game we love”.

The 12 founding members of the league – plus three yet to join – would be permanent and never face relegation.

The competition would have 20 teams and the other five sides would have to qualify each year for the competition, to take place midweek and rival the Champions League.

Fans and pundits have expressed revulsion at what they claim would be an unfair competition, locking others out of top European football.

About 200 football fans gathered outside Leeds United’s Elland Road ground ahead of the club’s Premier League game against Liverpool to protest against the proposed new league.

Prince William, who is the current president of the Football Association, said in a tweet: “Now, more than ever, we must protect the entire football community – from the top level to the grassroots – and the values of competition and fairness at its core.”

Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham have signed up to the plan.

They would join Spanish sides Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona and Italian clubs AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan.

In a statement to the House of Commons, Mr Dowden criticised the so-called “big six” English clubs for going “against the very spirit of the game”.

He added that owners “should remember that they are only temporary custodians of these clubs and that they forget fans at their peril”.

A fan-led review, due to take place after the pandemic, has been brought forward because of the ESL announcement, Mr Dowden said.

It would be led by former sports minister Tracey Crouch and “consider how fans can have an even greater say in the oversight of the game and models which might best achieve that”, he added.

The review also look at the finances of the men’s and women’s game, its governance and whether an independent football regulator should be set up.

Mr Dowden said he had spoken to Uefa and the Football Association, who both oppose the move by the 12 clubs, adding that, “if they can’t act, we will”.

“We will put everything on the table to prevent this from happening,” he told MPs. “We are examining every option from governance reform to competition law and mechanisms that allow football to take place.

“We will be reviewing everything Government does to support these clubs to play. We will do whatever it takes to protect our national game.”

‘Sort problems out’

But Labour urged ministers to do more, with shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens saying it was “time for the government to get off the subs bench and show some leadership on the pitch because we need reform of football”.

She added: “It’s not as if there’s been a blockage here in Parliament preventing the government from taking action to sort the problems out.”

The 12 founding members of the ESL said the pandemic had “accelerated the instability in the existing European football economic model”.

They added that there was a “need to provide higher-quality matches and additional financial resources for the overall football pyramid” – the interconnected system of leagues in the English game.

Speaking earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government was “going to look at everything that we can do with the football authorities to make sure that this doesn’t go ahead in the way that it’s currently being proposed”.

Downing Street said ministers were looking at a “range of options”, including a German-style system of fan ownership of clubs and clawing back coronavirus support loans.

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