Lawmakers in Britain’s House of Commons were told the government will use its legislative powers to block controversial plans for a breakaway European Super League.
Six of Britain’s Premier League clubs have joined forces with six other big clubs from Italy and Spain to plan the new league.
As outrage grew from fans across Britain, Sports and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told the Commons he had already had support from Prime Minister Boris Johnson for action to block the plan.
Saying football was in Britain’s DNA, Dowden told MPs in an emergency statement that football clubs aren’t just businesses, they define communities across the country.
“I was appalled by the announcement made late last night that a handful of clubs are proposing to form their own breakaway European league,” he said, Xinhua reports.
“These six clubs (Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Tottenham Hotspur) announced this decision without any consultation with football authorities, or with the government. But worst of all, they announced it without any dialogue whatsoever with their own fans.”
Dowden described it as a tone-deaf proposal, but the owners of the six clubs won’t have been able to ignore the near-universal roar of outrage from all parts of the football community over the past 24 hours.
Dowden told MPs he was launching an immediate fan-led review of football.
He added: “This move goes against the very spirit of the game. This is a sport where a team like Leicester City can ascend from League One to the Premier League title in under a decade, earning the right to go toe-to-toe against European heavyweights in the Champions League.
“Instead, a small handful of owners want to create a closed shop of elite clubs at the top of the game – a league based on wealth and brand recognition rather than upon merit.”
He added the government will not stand by and watch football be cravenly stripped of the things that make millions across the country love it.
Dowden said the government will not hesitate to protect one of Britain’s greatest national institutions, football.
He said the football authorities in Britain had robust rules in place to deal with the threat, but he added: “If they can’t act, we will.”
Dowden said: “We will put everything on the table to prevent this from happening. We are examining every option, from governance reform to competition law, and the mechanisms that allow football to take place. Put simply, we will be reviewing everything the government does to support these clubs to play.”
Promising a “very robust response”, Dowden told MPs: “We will do whatever it takes to protect our national game.”
Dowden said the loyalty of fans was being abused by a small number of individuals who wield an incredible amount of power and influence. He said the fan-led review of the game will be a root-and-branch examination of football in Britain.
“It will cover the financial sustainability of the men’s and women’s game, financial flows through the pyramid, governance regulation and the merits of an independent regulator,” he added,
Dowden concluded: “Crucially, in light of this weekend’s proposal, it will also consider how fans can have an even greater say in the oversight of the game, and the models which might best achieve that.
“We are unequivocally on the side of fans – and their voices have to be heard when it comes to the future of our national game. It starts with fans, and it ends with fans. But in the meantime we have thrown our full weight behind the football authorities and stand ready to do whatever is necessary to represent fans and protect their interests.”
The main opposition Labour Party said it fully supported the government’s opposition to the plan.