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Boris Johnson to host meeting with football bosses and fans over Super League

Sam Blewett, Benjamin Cooper and Gavin Cordon, PA
·5-min read

Boris Johnson will hold talks with officials from football’s governing bodies including the FA and the Premier League to discuss the proposed European Super League.

Fans’ representatives will also join the Prime Minister’s virtual meeting on Tuesday morning after a furious backlash since the unveiling of plans for a breakaway competition.

Mr Johnson has promised football fans he will do everything possible to give the “ludicrous” new league backed by the Premier League’s Big Six clubs a “straight red”.

Ministers have not ruled out imposing sanctions or introducing legislation in an attempt to stop the move going ahead as planned.

Meanwhile, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it will be “carefully considering” the proposals after Labour urged the regulator to launch an investigation into what the party described as “nothing short of an attempt to stitch up competition”.

The Duke of Cambridge, who is the president of the Football Association, also voiced his dismay at the “damage” the plan would do to the national game.

The Prime Minister said he was “horrified” at the implications for clubs up and down the country which had a “unique place” at the heart of their communities.

“It is your game – and you can rest assured that I’m going to do everything I can to give this ludicrous plan a straight red,” he wrote in The Sun.

There were protests outside grounds around the country on Monday at the scheme put forward by Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham, together with six leading Spanish and Italian clubs.

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Fans of both Liverpool and Leeds gathered outside the Yorkshire club’s Elland Road stadium before their evening fixture while a plane flew overhead with a banner proclaiming “Say No To Super League”.

The plan has been roundly condemned by both the FA and the Premier League, while Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin has warned players who take part could be banned from representing their countries in the World Cup and Euros.

It is understood the Premier League has called its other 14 clubs to an emergency shareholders’ meeting on Tuesday morning, to which the so-called Big Six have not been invited.

Super League chairman Florentino Perez, who is the president of Real Madrid, defended the plans to Spanish TV.

In his first public comments since the league was announced, Mr Perez said the league would help the sport “evolve” in the wake of the pandemic.

“When you don’t have income beyond television, the way to make it profitable is to make more attractive matches. That’s how we started working,” he added.

Fans and former players alike lined up to condemn a scheme which they said would create a closed shop of elite teams which would not have to qualify for the competition and could not be relegated.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson described the plans on Tuesday as something “dreamed up by money men” as he warned that the Government “reserves its position to take any action that’s required, including the need to take legislation”.

He told Sky News that there is also a “whole range of sanctions” that could be imposed.

Labour’s shadow minister for sport, Alison McGovern, urged the CMA to investigate the plans, saying: “Proposals for a breakaway league are nothing short of an attempt to stitch up competition for a few elite clubs at the top.”

A spokeswoman for the regulator responded: “The proposals for a European football super league have attracted high levels of public interest. It is a complex area and we will be carefully considering any competition concerns relating to these proposals.”

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In the Commons on Monday, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said that in the first instance it would be for the football authorities to prevent the English clubs from going ahead with the Super League.

But, amid condemnation of the proposal from across the political spectrum, he said that if they were unable to do so, the Government would do “whatever it takes” to protect the national game.

He said they were examining every option “from governance to competition law to mechanisms that allow football to take place”.

Mr Dowden also announced he was bringing forward a wider fan-led review of the game to be helmed by former sports minister Tracey Crouch.

The Duke of Cambridge, meanwhile, tweeted to say he shared the concerns of fans about “the damage it risks causing to the game we love”.

“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,” he said.

Leeds United players wearing ‘Football Is For The Fans’ shirts during the warm up to their match against Liverpool
Leeds United players sporting ‘Football Is For The Fans’ shirts during the warm-up to their match against Liverpool (Clive Brunskill/PA)

The plan – which also includes the Spanish sides Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona and Italian clubs AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan – has support from investment bank JP Morgan, which will provide debt financing for the competition.

It is understood 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.

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

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

The 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.”