Johnson: ‘Root-and-branch’ review of football will aim to boost role of fans

David Hughes and Gavin Cordon, PA
·4-min read

A “root-and-branch” review into the way football is run will consider how to boost the role of fans, Boris Johnson has promised.

Plans under consideration also include an Ofcom-style regulator for the sport, ministers have indicated following the European Super League debacle.

Six of England’s biggest clubs abandoned plans to join the breakaway competition on Tuesday night following a backlash from fans, the game’s authorities and the Government.

Boris Johnson said it was “the right result” but the Government is now considering what reforms may be needed to the way the sport is run.

At Prime Minister’s Questions, he said the proposals would have taken clubs from English towns and cities and turned them “just into global brands with no relation to the fans, to the communities that gave them life and that give them the most love and support”.

“That was, in my view, totally wrong, to say nothing of the lack of competition,” he said.

Former sports minister, Tracey Crouch, will carry out “a root-and-branch investigation into the governance of football and into what we can do to promote the role of fans in that governance”, Johnson said.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, an Arsenal season ticket holder, said the European Super League “would have destroyed football”.

The so-called Big Six all retreated from the European Super League proposals, with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy saying the club “regret the anxiety and upset caused by the proposal” while Arsenal apologised for their “mistake” in signing up for the venture.

Liverpool’s principal owner, John W Henry, said: “I want to apologise to all the fans and supporters of Liverpool Football Club for the disruption I caused over the last 48 hours.”

Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea also confirmed they were pulling out of the plan, which would also have involved major teams from Spain and Italy.

Culture Minister, Oliver Dowden, said the possibility of a new regulator will “not be off the table” in Ms Crouch’s review.

“The fan-led review will look at this,” he told LBC Radio.

“Clearly we have got to get a balance. I want the Government to do as little as it has to do. The game is rightly self-governed, but I do think it is right that we look at governance questions like that, and that will not be off the table.”

Mr Dowden said the review will also consider whether supporters should be able to take a stake in their clubs, something that is mandated in the German top flight.

“The German clubs didn’t participate in this [Super League] proposal. One of the points that was made to me by fans when the Prime Minister and I met with them yesterday was the fact that there was that financial stake. I think we should look at it,” he said.

“International investment in football has been a good thing. It has increased the quality of the game and the players and everything else.

“I’m not saying we shouldn’t have foreign investment, but I do think it is right that we look at how fans can have a stake in the game.”

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

Under the plans revealed at the weekend, the six English teams would have joined Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan to create a rival competition to the Champions League.

The proposal attracted particular anger as there would be no relegation from the Super League, regardless of how well clubs do on the field, although five of the best-performing teams from outside the league would be invited to participate each year.

It led to calls for the clubs involved to be expelled from the Premier League amid suggestions that their players could be barred from representing their countries in the World Cup or the Euros.

Downing Street rejected a suggestion by Juventus’ chairman Andrea Agnelli that the Government’s opposition to the plan was because the league was seen as an “attack” on Brexit.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I would reject that.

“The Prime Minister was very clear on why it was right for the Government to step in and take action that contributed to these clubs stepping back from this proposal, which was the importance of football at the heart of communities up and down the country.”