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Football: Super league claims to have fans' backing

THE company behind a breakaway European super league will meet with Premier League clubs on Thursday to tell them football supporters support its plans.

An opinion poll commissioned by Media Partners - the company behind the league - suggests a majority of supporters would like to see an independent body overseeing European club football. The poll, researched and analysed independently by MORI, shows 55 per cent of the 1,061 football fans canvassed favoured a switch from Uefa, European football's governing body, and 70 per cent said they approved of Media Partners plans when given details.

The survey will add weight to Media Partners plans, which currently involve dozens of Europe's biggest clubs, including Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool. It also comes at a time when a number of clubs are understood to have committed themselves to the super league to the extent they have already informally agreed to take part.

Peter Kenyon, a Manchester United director and the club's negotiator in super league talks, said yesterday his club had no immediate intentions of joining a breakaway, but he stopped short of saying it was definitely not under consideration. "Our prime objective is the Premier League," he said. "We will not do anything to disrupt that."

The news comes after a weekend when Uefa held an executive meeting in Monaco and firmly rejected the idea it would consider working with any outside body to change its tournaments.

"We think it [the Media Partners project] is not in the spirit we would like to see in European competitions and Uefa will not co-operate with any venture it can't identify with," Gerhard Aigner, Uefa's general secretary said.

Uefa will now develop changes of its own - to come into effect by the year 2000 - through a special task force which will include Peter Leaver, the chief-executive of the Premier League. The task force will work in close co-operation with five major clubs, all former European champions - Liverpool, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Ajax and Olympique Marseilles - to think of ways to thwart any renegade action.

The changes will include merging the Uefa Cup and the Cup-Winners' Cup, expanding the Champions' League, making competitions more lucrative, introducing professional referees and possibly introducing "wild card" entries to the Champions' League.

The last suggestion is surprising, not only because Uefa had previously ruled out any entry to its competitions not solely based on performance in the previous season, but because it - and the other proposals - almost exactly mirrors what Media Partners has put on the table.