Football ‘closed shop’: Now it’s war as PM joins European Super League outcry
Football fans, players and politicians today joined an outcry against the six clubs joining a European Super League — as it emerged they could be barred from the FA Cup and their star players dropped from the England squad.
Accusations of “betrayal” and “greed” were levelled at them, from grassroots supporters right up to some of the greatest names of the game.
Boris Johnson revealed that the Government was studying measures to block the so-called Super Six — Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur — from going ahead with the move.
“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.
He hinted at measures to force big clubs to pay heed to their fans. “These clubs are not just great global brands,” Mr Johnson told reporters during a visit to Gloucestershire.
“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.”
The row came as Spurs sacked manager Jose Mourinho after just 17 months in charge.
Meanwhile, The Duke of Cambridge, who is the current FA president, has said he “shares the concerns of fans about the proposed Super League and the damage it risks causing to the game we love”.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden branded the planned league “a closed shop” that would torpedo fair competition and starve smaller clubs of their fair share of funding. He was making a statement in the Commons this afternoon, where MPs hoped he would say more about empowering fans to say No.
Mr Dowden has also held talks with former Manchester United star Gary Neville about appointing an independent regulator to oversee the sport, an option likely to feature in a policy statement on strengthening football due in a few weeks.
Mr Dowden was expected to say that owners were merely “temporary custodians” of clubs and the Government was “on the side of the fans”.
It was seen as a strong hint that it will empower fans — possibly through a German model that gives them a say through shareholdings. Another senior minister, asked if options included barring the six clubs from the FA Cup and other domestic competitions, or banning players from their national teams, said nothing was ruled out.
“We’re going to look at all the options,” housing minister Christopher Pincher told LBC. “We’re talking to the footballing authorities, we’ll talk to Uefa, we’ll talk to the FA to make sure that we get this right. We’ve got to make sure that football grows and thrives in our country, but it’s football for the fans, football for the grassroots and not for the elites.”
He added: “We don’t want to see a footballing elite, which is of the elite, by the elite and for the elite.” Under the plan, the six English sides will be joined by clubs from Italy and Spain to create a closed competition for up to 20 clubs, without relegation or promotion.
Christian Purslow, the chief executive of Aston Villa, condemned the super league as an attempt to take away the “uncertainty” that made football so exciting for the sake of profits.
“These proposals do away with sporting merit,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today. “It would enable a small number of clubs to be in this competition, come what may. For millions of people in football, that goes against everything that the sport means and stands for.” Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said such a set-up would destroy the “incredible moments, results and upsets” that made football great, as well as freeze out fans. “It diminishes competition. It pulls up the drawbridge. It is designed for and by a small elite,” he said.
Fans’ groups, including those linked to Liverpool, Spurs and Chelsea, have also voiced their opposition. The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust said football fans worldwide have “experienced the ultimate betrayal”.