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Monday briefing: Fury at plot to split football

·9-min read

Top story: ‘Walk away before irreparable damage is done’

Hello, Warren Murray here to help you get your week started.

Football has been thrown into turmoil after plans were confirmed last night for the European Super League, with six English clubs – Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham – joining the breakaway competition alongside three each from Italy and Spain. Boris Johnson and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, condemned proposals that were met with widespread criticism from around the continent. Organisers have announced they want to begin the competition in August.

The plan threatens not only the future of the Champions League but could have a seismic impact on the entire structure of the club game. In England the Premier League urged clubs “to walk away immediately before irreparable damage is done”. The former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville reacted furiously on Sky Sports: “I’m disgusted with Manchester United and Liverpool the most,” he said, adding the Premier League should “deduct them all points, put them at the bottom of the league, and take their money off them”.

The league would be structured around midweek fixtures with all participating clubs hoping to still compete in their respective national leagues. The big German and French clubs have so far said they they are not interested in joining. Jonathan Liew writes: “This is an idea that could only have been devised by someone who truly hates football to its bones … the biggest clubs have laid out their vision for the future of football: a 12-month reality television show whose sole purpose is to generate a ceaseless stream of content, animus and talking points.”

* * *

Houses scarce as 95% mortgages launch – A frenzy of activity has driven UK property prices to a record high this month, just as some lenders from today begin offering mortgages covering 95% of the purchase price. The government-guaranteed scheme is intended to help people with small deposits on to the housing ladder. Rightmove said the average asking price jumped by 2.1% in April to a new all-time high of £327,797, an increase of £6,733 from March. The surge was driven by a shortage of houses on the market, as the pandemic drives families to search for more spacious properties away from cities where they can work from home. Some potential sellers are also holding off until they have been vaccinated, agents say.

* * *

Props to Mars – In a few hours Nasa is due to attempt the first powered, controlled aircraft flight on another planet. If all goes to plan the Ingenuity drone helicopter carried to Mars by the Perseverance rover mission will start its propellers, take off, hover, rotate and land again, in the first of what are planned to be several flights. Because the Mars atmosphere is just 1% as dense as Earth’s, Ingenuity’s rotor blades are four feet long and spin more rapidly than would be needed here. It has only ever been tested in Nasa’s vacuum chambers.

* * *

Oil giants less green than their ads – Big fossil fuel companies have used advertising to greenwash how they contribute to the climate crisis, according to files published by the environmental lawyers ClientEarth. The files compare adverts produced by ExxonMobil, Aramco, Chevron, Shell, Equinor and others with the companies’ operations and products, overall climate impact and progress toward climate-safe business models. ClientEarth is calling on policymakers to ban all fossil fuel company ads unless they come with tobacco-style health warnings about the risks of global heating. Shell and Chevron defended their climate goals, with the latter saying it engages in “honest conversations about the energy transition”.

* * *

Cuba after the Castros – Raúl Castro’s announcement on Friday that he is to retire and bring 62 years of Castro rule to a close caused barely a ripple on the island, even if it sent waves around the world. “I don’t think there will be any significant changes in the near future,” said one man. “Not as long as the old guard casts its shadow and influence on Cuban politics.”

Fidel and Raúl Castro (left and centre) with Che Guevara in 1961.
Fidel and Raúl Castro (left and centre) with Che Guevara in 1961. Photograph: Salas Archive Photos/Alamy Stock Photo

For Cubans, the priority remains food. Donald Trump derailed Castro’s 2016 detente with the Obama administration and even hard-nosed business people have been surprised at Joe Biden’s refusal to reverse Trump’s course. A rally against “the US blockade” took place in Havana recently. It is all but certain that Raúl Castro will be replaced as the party’s supremely powerful first secretary by Miguel Díaz Canel, the 60-year-old, white male president.

* * *

Retail art – Its “essential” products will include toilet roll, teabags, washing-up liquid, passata and gin – but not as we know them. England’s museums and galleries can’t reopen until after 17 May, but shops can open. So the Design Museum in London will this week reopen its shop as a supermarket, selling a range of products with packaging designed by emerging artists.

Open for just five days, the redesigned shop will sell the products at similar prices to a supermarket. They include a kidney beans tin designed by Kentara Okwara (70p), a porridge oat jar by Amy Warrall (£1.10), toilet roll by Michaela Yearwood-Dan (50p), a rice box by Joey Yu (£2), and washing-up liquid by Jess Warby (£2).

Today in Focus podcast: Dying to eat out?

Last August, Bob Pape and his family went on a city break to Birmingham, making the most of the chancellor Rishi Sunak’s “eat out to help out” scheme. The day after he arrived home, his Covid symptoms began. Guardian writer Sirin Kale looks at the links between the scheme and the rise in Covid numbers.

Lunchtime read: ‘Hijacked by a devil’ – my postpartum psychosis

A month after the birth of her son, the writer, poet and illustrator Laura Dockrill was in a psychiatric ward, experiencing severe delusions. Now she is raising awareness of a condition that affects one in a thousand new mothers.

Laura Dockrill.
Writer, poet and illustrator Laura Dockrill. Photograph: Michael Bowles/REX/Shutterstock

Sport

Lewis Hamilton has said he believes that reacting well to setbacks can define a Formula One driver, after a mistake that may have ended his race at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. Kelechi Iheanacho’s second-half goal earned Leicester a 1-0 victory over Southampton at Wembley to take them into the FA Cup final for the first time since 1969. Mason Greenwood scored twice for Manchester United, his second an 84th-minute deflection, in their 3-1 win against a stubborn Burnley. Neil Robertson has vowed to take nothing for granted after underscoring his status as one of the favourites for this year’s World Snooker Championship by brushing aside Liang Wenbo at the Crucible. Former England scrum-half Kyran Bracken has spoken to the Guardian on spearheading the brain injury campaign and his own struggles with anxiety and OCD.

Hull FC and Warrington played out the first draw of the Super League season, with the hosts preserving their unbeaten start under Brett Hodgson after neither side were able to strike the decisive blow in golden point extra time. Ben Spencer’s nerveless last-minute touchline conversion sealed a dramatic 21-20 victory for Bath against Leicester, to keep the hosts’ Premiership play-off hopes alive. And a touchdown in a college football game in Pennsylvania has gone viral after a bizarre pass from Villanova Wildcats quarterback Daniel Smith.

Business

Investors in fossil fuels project are demanding four times the return they will accept from renewable energy projects, a University of Oxford study has found. Lenders typically require wind and solar energy projects to return at least 10% to 11% but for investments in coal the figure rockets to 40% to justify the rising risk that a polluting project might be left stranded as governments ramp up climate action.

Asian share trading has been mixed. Japan’s benchmark quickly lost early gains in the first market reaction to a weekend summit between the prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, and President Joe Biden. Suga also spoke with the Pfizer chief executive asking for a more steady supply of its Covid-19 vaccine. In Australia the S&P/ASX 200 gained, as did South Korea’s Kospi, while the Hang Seng and Shanghai Composite were lower. Expect an uptick on the FTSE when it opens. The pound is worth $1.383 and €1.157 at time of writing.

The papers

The Guardian print edition today leads with “Cut poverty to reduce crime, says police leader”. Marking his retirement as chief constable of Merseyside police, Andy Cooke said that if he was given £5bn to cut crime, he would put £1bn into law enforcement and £4bn into tackling poverty. Also on the front: “Raab backs Czech hunt for novichok suspects” . The foreign secretary said the UK stood in “full support” of Czechs police who are hunting the same two Russians suspected of carrying out the Salisbury poisonings over an explosion at an arms depot in Vrbětice, which left two people dead. The Times throws forward on this story with “New powers to kick out spies from hostile states” previewing Boris Johnson’s 11 May Queen’s speech, where the PM is expected to announce a toughening of the “archaic Official Secrets Act”.

The Telegraph splashes with “PM takes on football giants over new super league plan” which no doubt you have heard about by now. It also covers Priti Patel blasting Facebook over its plans for end-to-end message encryption, which the NSPCC says is the “frontline of child sexual abuse online”. A great deal of concern for the sovereign who is facing what the Mail calls her “Loneliest birthday”. The Mirror has “Royals rallying round – ‘We’ll be at your side’”, saying her family have “agreed a rota to visit the grieving monarch” in these times.

The Express says “Royals rally round brave Queen” while the Sun claims a “Wills & Harry Exclusive” saying they are “United in grief” and met for two hours in the company of Prince Charles. The Metro calls the brokering of that meeting “Kate’s finest hour”. It also has “Calls grow to put India on ‘red list’” which is about Covid variants and travel rules. The i goes with a Brexit lead: “Juncker – I should never have trusted Cameron” as the former European commission president opens up. The top story in the Financial Times is “US-China climate pledge boosts hopes for global emissions deal” – lying above a more entertaining item, “HSBC top brass forced to hot desk as London HQ scraps executive floor”.

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