Ministers say they will do ‘whatever it takes’ to block breakaway Super League

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

The Government has said it will do “whatever it takes” to prevent a controversial breakaway European Super League involving some of England’s biggest football teams.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said that they were working with the game’s authorities to ensure that the plans could not go ahead as suggested.

The warning came as the Duke of Cambridge signalled his dismay at the proposed breakaway, saying he shared the concerns of fans about “the damage it risks causing to the game we love”.

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William, who is the current president of the Football Association, tweeted: “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.”

In his Commons statement, Mr Dowden said that if the sport was unable to act, then ministers were prepared to step in to protect the national game.

“Be in no doubt, if they can’t act, we will. We will put everything on the table to prevent this from happening,” he said.

“We are examining every option from governance to competition law to 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.”

His warning follows the announcement that Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City have signed up to the plan, joining teams from Italy and Spain, provoking outrage across the sport.

Earlier, Boris Johnson said the breakaway plans were not “good news for fans” or for UK football.

“I don’t like the look of these proposals,” he told reporters on a campaign visit to Gloucestershire.

“We are 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.”

He said the teams are more than just “great global brands”, adding: “They’re also clubs that have originated historically from their towns, from their cities, from their local communities. They should have a link with those fans, and with the fan base in their community.

“So it is very, very important that that continues to be the case.”

In his statement Mr Dowden said the Government was now bringing forward its promised fan-led review of football, to be chaired by former sports minister Tracey Crouch.

He said the “root and branch” examination would cover the financial sustainability of both the men’s and women’s games, governance and regulation, and the merits of an independent regulator.

“Crucially in the 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 models which might best achieve that,” he said.

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

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Mr Dowden said he had spoken to the Football Association and the Premier League as well as the president of Uefa, Aleksander Ceferin, who had all expressed their determination to stop the plan “in its tracks”.

As well as the six English clubs, the Super League plan also involves Spanish sides Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona and Italian clubs AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan.

The proposal has support from investment bank JP Morgan, which will provide debt financing for the competition.

It is understood that it will underwrite around six billion US dollars (£4.3 billion) in loans for teams involved.

It would see the breakaway teams create a competition to rival the Champions League, but it would not feature relegation or promotion – leading to the accusations of a closed shop for the richest clubs.

Teams would play each other in midweek while still competing in their domestic leagues.

There was condemnation of the proposals from across the political spectrum.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it “cuts across all the things that make football great”.

Sir Keir, an Arsenal supporter, said: “It diminishes competition. It pulls up the drawbridge. It is designed for and by a small elite. But worst of all, it ignores the fans.”

Julian Knight, the Conservative chairman of the cross-party Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said they would discuss the matter on Tuesday.

He said it was a “dark day for football” with “a deal done behind closed doors, apparently with no regard for supporters”.