Boris Johnson 'willing to drop legislative bomb' to block Super League

20 April 2021, 12:50 | Updated: 20 April 2021, 14:35

Boris Johnson met with football groups today about the proposed new Super League
Boris Johnson met with football groups today about the proposed new Super League. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

The Government is considering legislative action to block the European Super League after meeting with the FA and the Premier League, No 10 said today.

The so-called Big Six of the English Premier League faced a furious backlash after unveiling their proposals for a breakaway tournament.

Boris Johnson promised football fans prior to Tuesday's meeting he will do everything possible to give the "ludicrous" new league a "straight red".

The Prime Minister met with representatives from the Football Association (FA) and the English top flight today, during which he voiced his "unwavering support" for their efforts to block the controversial proposal.

He was understood to have told the virtual meeting that ministers should "drop a legislative bomb" to prevent the league going ahead as planned, and it should be done "now".

Later, the other 14 Premier League clubs not involved in the breakaway plans held their own meeting, during which they "unanimously and vigorously rejected the plans for the competition".

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A statement released by the Premier League said it is "considering all actions available to prevent it from progressing", which include "holding those Shareholders involved to account under its rules".

Following the meeting with Mr Johnson, a statement from No 10 read: "The Prime Minister and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden met with representatives from the Football Association, the Premier League and football fan groups this morning to discuss action against the proposed European Super League.

"He expressed his solidarity with football fans and agreed they must always be at the heart of any decisions about the future of the game. He reiterated his unwavering support for the football authorities and confirmed they have the government’s full backing to take whatever action necessary to put a stop to these plans.

"All attendees agreed that action was necessary to protect the fairness and open competition we expect to see in football, and to uphold the fundamental principle that any club should have the chance to play and win against the biggest players in the game.

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"The Prime Minister confirmed the government will not stand by while a small handful of owners create a closed shop.

"He was clear that no action is off the table and the government is exploring every possibility, including legislative options, to ensure these proposals are stopped."

The warning came as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it would be "carefully considering" the proposals which have caused outrage throughout the sport.

Mr Johnson's official spokesman later told reporters that among the measures under consideration was preventing players of the clubs involved getting work visas and the withdrawal of police funding for match days.

"All these options are on the table at the moment," the spokesman said.

The Super League 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.

However, the breakaway competition's chairman Florentino Perez - who is the president of Real Madrid - insisted the proposals were necessary to enable the sport to "evolve" in the wake of the coronavirus 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 told Spanish TV in his first public comments since the plan was announced at the weekend.

Meanwhile, 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."

On Monday, the Duke of Cambridge, who is president of the FA, 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.

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.

Reports suggest 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 - however, domestic leagues would likely ban the teams from playing.