Boris Johnson has said he will work with the football authorities to block plans for a controversial breakaway European Super League involving some of England’s biggest football teams.
The Prime Minister said he will work with the game’s administrators “to make sure that this doesn’t go ahead in the way that it’s currently being proposed”.
Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City have announced they have signed up to the plan, joining teams from Italy and Spain.
Downing Street said a “range of options” were being considered in response, with a German-style system of fan ownership of clubs and clawing back coronavirus support loans included as possibilities.
Mr 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.”
Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action.
They would strike at the heart of the domestic game, and will concern fans across the country. (1/2)
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) April 18, 2021
On another campaign visit, in Wednesbury, Mr Johnson said the breakaway league could “take a lot of the cash away from clubs that really need it”.
“I think it’s wrong, I think it’s something that’s going in the wrong direction for football – for great English and British clubs – and it’s going in the wrong direction for fans.
“I can’t think that it’s the right way forward.”
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden will make a Commons statement on the proposals – which have been condemned across the House – later on Monday.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We’re considering a range of options and the Prime Minister wants to look at everything we can do here to make sure these proposals don’t go ahead as proposed.”
The European Super League plans also involve 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.
With many fans, we are concerned that this plan could create a closed shop at the very top of our national game. Sustainability, integrity and fair competition are absolutely paramount and anything that undermines this is deeply troubling and damaging for football. (2/3)
— Oliver Dowden (@OliverDowden) April 18, 2021
The plans 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.
Uefa, the football associations of England, Spain and Italy, plus the Premier League, LaLiga and Serie A have also spoken out against the move.
A cross-party Commons committee could look into the issue.
Julian Knight, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said its MPs 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”.(PA Graphics)
The Tory MP added: “What’s needed is a fan-led review of football with real teeth, and here we have more evidence to strengthen the case for it.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the plan “cuts across all the things that make football great”.
Arsenal supporter Sir Keir 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.”
Scottish Tory leader and football linesman Douglas Ross said the move would be “detrimental” to the game.
“It would help a small number of clubs that are already very well off and it would actually work against the smaller clubs and spectators of those clubs,” he added.
Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “The Government must step in to prevent a small number of greedy, rich owners destroying the game we all love.”
European Commission vice president Margaritis Schinas said: “We must defend a values-driven European model of sport based on diversity and inclusion.
“There is no scope for reserving it for the few rich and powerful clubs who want to sever links with everything associations stand for.”