Football: Warning to Super men

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The Independent Online
THE SOLIDARITY of the Premier League, so widely advertised after the meeting of the 20 club chairmen on Thursday, will be severely tested over the next two days. Representatives of Arsenal and Manchester United, the two clubs most involved with a breakaway European Super League, have been told by Peter Leaver, chief executive of the Premier League, that they will only be able to attend meetings about the future of the Super League scheduled for early this week, if they act as official representatives of the Premier League and report their findings back.

Leaver has made it clear that any hint of secrecy in their dealings would be considered by all other Premier League clubs as a breach of the stance against the Super League "unanimously" - the word was specifically added by Leaver to the press statement - agreed at Thursday's meeting. Ultimately, such a move could lead to the expulsion of the clubs from the Premier League. The fact that Martin Edwards, chairman of Manchester United, has already informed Leaver about the meetings is viewed as an encouraging sign of loyalty. But a critical stage has been reached in the battle of wills.

"I will not be able to be at the meetings myself," Leaver said. "But I have asked the representatives of the clubs to produce a report of their talks so that I can circulate it to all the other clubs." Leaver added that the clubs had agreed to report back, but that Media Partners, the company behind the proposals for a breakaway league, had yet to give their consent to welcoming Arsenal and Manchester United as official envoys of the Premier League.

The potential breakaway clubs were due to meet Karel van Meert, the competition commissioner for the European Union, in Brussels tomorrow for further discussions about the extent of Uefa's powers under European law and to hold further talks with Media Partners about the details of a Super League in a second meeting in London on Tuesday.

In an exclusive interview, Leaver also reveals his personal preference for televised pay-per-view games to be scheduled for 6pm on Saturdays, not transferred to Sunday afternoons. The league is still waiting for new proposals from Sky, but some initial pay-per-view fixtures could be scheduled for Saturday evenings early next season. "I don't believe the majority of supporters are in favour of a wholesale move to Sundays," Leaver said.

Interview, page 8