Premier League unveils Owners' Charter to head off future breakaway threat

·4-min read

England’s 20 top-flight football club owners will be required to sign a nine-point plan designed to maintain the competition's integrity in a bid to avert any future breakaway threat.

Sky News has learnt that Premier League clubs were on Thursday sent a final draft of a new "Owners' Charter" that their controlling shareholders will be required to commit to annually or risk facing tough sanctions.

A club executive said that the document would oblige clubs to avow their commitment to the English football pyramid - including promotion, relegation and qualification for cup competitions based on sporting merit - and to acting in good faith and with sporting integrity.

Adhering to the charter would also prevent clubs engaging in the creation of any new tournament format not permitted by the Premier League's rules - effectively preventing any future bid to establish a European Super League (ESL).

The charter, which will be discussed at a meeting of the Premier League's 20 "shareholders" next week, comes three months after the six clubs which signed up to the ESL - and then swiftly abandoned it - agreed to pay £20m in a settlement with English football's top flight.

The club source said the charter also included pledges to back the English game and support its national teams; to combat discrimination and abuse; to run their clubs in an economically stable and sustainable way; to ensure that the Premier League remained the world's most-watched domestic football competition; to protect player welfare; and to recognise the power of the 20 clubs as a collective.

They added that signing the document would also require club owners to acknowledge the importance of fans and the local communities in which they exist, as well as agreeing to the assertion that all Premier League clubs possessed "an equal voice".

The Premier League said in May that it would introduce an Owners' Charter, two weeks after Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur - and a handful of Europe's other top clubs - stunned the football world by signing up to a new European Super League.

A spokeswoman for the Premier League declined to comment on the contents of the new shareholders' manifesto, but a statement issued after its annual meeting in May said it would be aimed at upholding the "principles" of the competition.

"Clubs... agreed to the principle of an Owners' Charter, which will reaffirm the values and expectations placed on clubs and their owners.

"These additional rules and regulations are being put in place to ensure the principles of the Premier League and open competition are protected and provide certainty and stability for our clubs and their fans."

It was unclear on Thursday exactly what form the sanctions for non-compliance would take, but one club executive said they had been told that the charter would require annual attestation by owners.

Signing the document is expected to become part of the formal Premier League rulebook in due course.

It is expected to gain the backing of the Football Association.

The creation of the charter comes as an independent review of football's governance commissioned by ministers approaches its conclusion.

Tracey Crouch, the former sports minister who is chairing the inquiry, recommended in July that an independent regulator be set up to oversee the game.

"The short-lived threat of the European Super League jeopardised the future of the English football pyramid," she wrote in a letter to Oliver Dowden, the then culture secretary.

"While that threat has receded - for now - the dangers facing many clubs across the country are very real with their futures precarious and dependent in most cases on the willingness and continuing ability of owners to fund significant losses."

In addition to the fines they agreed to pay in June, the six English ESL clubs would also be liable to penalties of more than £20m and 30-point Premier League deductions if they repeated their breakaway bids, under the settlement they reached with the Premier League.

They rapidly abandoned the ESL project amid a huge backlash from rivals, fans and politicians.

Only financially troubled Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid have yet to formally withdraw from the ESL - although they have been allowed by UEFA to take part in this season's Champions' League.

The Premier League-imposed fines were comparable to those imposed by UEFA, which announced a package of "reintegration measures" for the nine clubs who agreed to pull out of the ESL during a torrid 48-hour period at the end of April.

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