European politicians slam breakaway football ‘super league’ plan – POLITICO
French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Sunday their governments would support attempts to stifle the creation of a controversial European football “super league,” which they said threatened to undermine the principle of meritocracy in the sport.
As Europe’s top football clubs announced their plan to defect from UEFA’s elite competitions to set up a lucrative self-governed tournament, Macron said France would support “all the steps” taken by football’s governing bodies to defend the existing competitions. Johnson later added that creating a super league would be “very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action.” According to one person familiar with behind-the-scenes discussions, the Italian and Spanish governments will echo that position.
Simmering talk of a breakaway league exploded earlier Sunday, when the Times reported that five of England’s so-called Big 6 clubs had agreed to sign up to the new league. The New York Times later reported that 12 clubs — six from England, three from Spain and three from Italy — had already agreed in principle to join the rebel tournament. The clubs — England’s Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham; Spain’s Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid; and Italy’s Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan — then confirmed the move in a joint statement. The clubs said they anticipated another three teams would join them as founding members of the super league “ahead of the inaugural season, which is intended to commence as soon as practicable.”
The proposed shake-up of European football would restrict entry to the super league and have significant consequences for smaller teams, flouting the principle that entry to the sport’s top tournaments should be based on competition. Instead, it would allow the 15 founding clubs to guarantee their places in a closed league, regardless of their performance on the pitch.
The U.K.’s Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden on Sunday asked officials to draw up a list of “very robust options” for the government to consider to take action against the six English clubs if they go ahead with the breakaway effort, a department of culture, media and sport official told Monday’s London Playbook. One of those options is the so-called German model, which has a 50+1 fan ownership rule requiring supporters to have majority voting rights at each club. The DCMS official said: “It’s not gone unnoticed that German clubs are not in this and they have fan representation. We’ll look at all options.” Another Whitehall official told Playbook the government was also looking into whether the super league plan would be a breach of competition law.
In France, where Qatari-backed behemoth Paris Saint-Germain have reportedly refused overtures to join the money-spinning breakaway competition, Macron said the proposal “threatened the principle of sporting merit.”
Reaction from European football chiefs to the proposal, which would upend decades of football governance in Europe and wrest control of the game away from the governing body, was also swift and vehement. In a joint statement, UEFA and Europe’s top national leagues called the proposal “cynical” and “founded on self-interest” — and delivered an unveiled threat.
“We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening,” the statement said.
In January, FIFA and UEFA threatened to ban any “super league” players from international tournaments, including the World Cup, a position which the EU supported and was echoed in Sunday’s UEFA statement.
European Commission Vice President for Promoting our European Way of Life Margaritis Schinas tweeted his opposition to the rebel scheme in the early hours of Monday morning, saying: “We must defend a values-driven European model of sport based on diversity and inclusion. There is no scope for reserving it for the few rich and powerful clubs who want to severe [sic] links with everything associations stand for.” He added: “Universality, inclusion and diversity are key elements of European sport and of our European way of life.”
In a statement, the European Parliament’s sports group condemned the “super league” proposal, saying the breakaway competition would contravene the “values” championed by the group.
The European Club Association (ECA), which represents professional football teams in Europe, said in a statement that it “strongly opposed” the super league proposal, and would convene over the coming days “to take appropriate decisions.” In the wake of the super league announcement, Juventus chief Andrea Agnelli left his position as ECA chairman.
Elisa Braun contributed reporting.
This article has been updated.