Fan-led review launched to prevent ‘closed shop’ of elite football clubs

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A fan-led review of football will be launched as the Government vowed to “put everything on the table” to stop breakaway clubs forming a European Super League.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said he was “appalled” by the news of proposals for a breakaway league, which he said took place without consultation with football authorities or fans.


Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City have joined teams from Italy and Spain in signing up to the plans which have been widely panned.

Boris Johnson said the plans were not “good news for fans” or for British football – as Downing Street indicated that ministers would consider moves such as a German-style system of fan ownership of clubs and clawing back coronavirus support loans.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Dowden slammed the idea, adding: “We will do whatever it takes to protect our national game.”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced plans for a fan-led review into football

He told MPs: “It was a tone-deaf proposal, but the owners of those clubs won’t have been able to ignore the universal roar of outrage from all parts of the football community over the last 24 hours.

“This move goes against the very spirit of the game.”

Mr Dowden said the Government would not allow the “a small handful of owners [who] want to create a closed shop of elite clubs at the top of the game – a league based on wealth and brand recognition rather than merit”.

He added: “We will not stand by and allow one of our great national institutions to be undermined – to watch football be cravenly stripped of the things that make millions across the country love it.”

A fan-led review into football – promised in the 2019 Tory manifesto – will be led by ex-Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, he said.

If the football authorities are unable to act, Mr Dowden said the Government will “put everything on the table” to prevent the creation of the new league.

He hinted that changes to the law could be fast-tracked to allow the Premier League and the Football Association to take action against the English clubs seeking to join the European Super League.

He also said aspects of governance reform and competition law would be looked at, alongside, work permits and policing arrangements and taxation.

Shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens said it was “a watershed moment” and tore into the rich owners of clubs for acting like “cartel chiefs”.

She said: “Football governance is broken, football finance is broken, and football fans whichever club we support, are ignored.

“The hedge-fund owners and billionaires who treat football clubs like any other of their commodities have no care for history of our football, for the role it plays in villages, towns and cities up and down our country and especially for the fans who are the beating heart of it.

“They should understand their role as custodians rather than cartel chiefs.”

The scene at Anfield as Liverpool fans tie banners to the gates at The Kop. Photo by Colin Lane
The scene at Anfield as Liverpool fans tie banners to the gates at The Kop. Photo by Colin Lane

MPs from all sides of the Commons urged the Government to use competition rules to stop the breakaway league, pass new laws to overhaul club ownership, and ban players from rebel clubs entering the country to play matches.

Tory James Cartlidge said: “Where a league operates on the basis of not having relegation, and is basically based on the wealth you have, that must be a cartel.”

Mr Dowden revealed Whitehall officials and lawyers were examining using competition law to thwart the plan.

“We are well aware that competition is going to come into play in this scenario,” he told MPs.

“We rule out absolutely nothing.”

He also pointed to full-throated condemnation of the rebel league from across Westminster – suggesting there would be widespread support for fast-tracked legislation.

Conservative backbencher Huw Merriman called for a German ownership model of clubs in England to be examined.

He urged ministers to “look to introduce legislation to immediately break up their ownership structures and bring in the German model where 51% of the club is owned by the fans and custodians of their club?”

Mr Dowden said: “It’s very interesting to note that German teams are not participating in this – that makes the case rather for the fan-led review looking at the German model and it will be doing so.”

Labour’s Clive Efford suggested foreign players representing rebel teams entering Britain for games should be stopped at the frontier.

He said: “We now control our own borders, having left the European Union.

“This will be a major test for our new powers over our borders where we can prevent people entering the country if they are not playing matches that are sanctioned by the sports governing bodies.”

Asked by Labour MP Alex Davies-Jones if would “do whatever it takes to stop the European Super League from going ahead,” Mr Dowden said: “The short answer is yes.”



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