Boris Johnson says breakaway European Super League plans ‘very damaging’ for football

Ministers back football authorities taking action over ‘closed’ competition for Europe’s elite clubs

Kate Devlin
Whitehall Editor
Monday 19 April 2021 07:15

Boris Johnson has condemned “very damaging” plans for a European Super League, calling on English clubs to halt their participation until they “answer to their fans and the wider footballing community”.

The prime minister said such a move would “strike at the heart of the domestic game” and that ministers supported football authorities in taking action.

His culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, also warned that any major decisions should have the backing of fans.

“With many fans, we are concerned that this plan could create a closed shop at the very top of our national game,” he said.

“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.”

It is believed a group of 12 European clubs, including Manchester United and Liverpool, formally agreed over the weekend to join a European Super League competition, which would effectively replace the existing Champions League tournament operated by Uefa.

But the plan has sparked anger after it was revealed founding members of the competition, understood to also include at least Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham, would be given special status and automatic entry each season.

The Premier League said in a statement that a super league would “destroy” the premise of open competition. “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 European Parliament’s sports group has also criticised the plans, describing them as a “closed competition of super rich clubs” which would “form a privileged caste outside the structures of European club football.”

Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan, AC Milan are also thought to be involved in discussions.

Alison McGovern MP, Labour’s shadow sports minister said: “These reports are deeply concerning. If true, these proposals would be deeply damaging to football and football fans and the clubs involved should distance themselves from them immediately.

“Any approach that excludes fans - who are the lifeblood of football - is doomed to fail.

“This is further proof that the Government must deliver on what they have promised: a proper, fan-led review of football governance.”