Plans for six leading English clubs to join a breakaway European Super League were met by a furious reaction by the Premier League, Football Association and UK government on Sunday.
According to reports, Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham are among 12 teams, also featuring three from Spain and Italy, to agree to a closed breakaway league.
“A European Super League will undermine the appeal of the whole game, and have a deeply damaging impact on the immediate and future prospects of the Premier League and its member clubs, and all those in football who rely on our funding and solidarity to prosper,” the Premier League said in a statement.
“Fans of any club in England and across Europe can currently dream that their team may climb to the top and play against the best. We believe that the concept of a European Super League would destroy this dream.”
The FA said a closed league would “attack the principles of open competition and sporting merit” and repeated a threat by FIFA that players who participate in such a competition could be banned from representing their countries at international level.
“For new competitions to be formed involving clubs from different associations, approval would be required from the relevant national associations, confederation and/or FIFA,” said the FA.
“We would not provide permission to any competition that would be damaging to English football, and will take any legal and/or regulatory action necessary to protect the broader interests of the game.
“We note FIFA confirmed earlier this year that they and the six confederations would not recognize any such competition and, as such, any player or club involved may not be permitted to participate in any official competition which falls within the auspices of FIFA or their respective confederation.”
On Monday, UEFA are due to announce changes to the Champions League format from 2024.
Europe’s premier club competition is expected to be expanded from 32 to 36 clubs with a minimum of 10 games for each team.
British Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the interests of fans and the football pyramid had to be the priority for any major change to competition format, rather than the greed of the top clubs.
“With many fans, we are concerned that this plan could create a closed shop at the very top of our national game,” Dowden said in a statement released via his Twitter feed.
“Sustainability, integrity and fair competition are absolutely paramount and anything that undermines this is deeply troubling and damaging for football”
“We have a football pyramid where funds from the globally successful Premier League flow down the leagues and into local communities. I would be bitterly disappointed to see any action that destroys that.”
Leading former players were also scathing of the proposal.
“I’m disgusted,” said former Manchester United captain Gary Neville. “It’s an absolute disgrace. We have to wrestle back power from the clubs at the top of this league and that includes my club.”
Plans for a wide-ranging reform of English football backed by Manchester United and Liverpool were rejected by Premier League clubs in October 2020.
Under the controversial proposals, the number of teams in the English top-flight would have been cut from 20 to 18 and the League Cup scrapped.
More power would have been handed to the biggest clubs in exchange for a large financial compensation package and a greater share of broadcast revenues for the English Football League (EFL).
Of the six English clubs involved, only Tottenham, whose owner Joe Lewis resides in the Bahamas, are British-owned.
United, Liverpool and Arsenal all have American owners, who also have stakes in US sports franchises that compete in closed leagues.
Chelsea have been in control of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich since 2003, while City’s rise to prominence has been bankrolled by an Abu Dhabi takeover in 2008.
© 2021 AFP