'Forget fans at your peril' warning to football club owners as Government explores all options to stop Super League going ahead

The Government will do “whatever it takes to protect our national game” and fight a “tone deaf proposal” to create a European Super League which would represent the biggest reshaping of football in decades, as owners were warned to “forget fans at their peril”.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said today that the Government could introduce sweeping reforms to give fans more say over what happens at their clubs, after it was announced that Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham are among 12 clubs who have committed to the project, which would be a closed competition without promotion or relegation.

The founding clubs will get a share of £3bn to support their investment plans and "to offset the impact" of the pandemic.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

But fans from across the “big six” English clubs have united in their dismay at the proposals, as well as leading football authorities and politicians.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden speaking in the House of Commons, London, on the proposed European Super League. Photo: PA

The Prime Minister said the plans were “wrong” and could take cash away from clubs that need it.

Boris Johnson said: “I think it’s wrong, I think it’s something that’s going in the wrong direction for football – for great English and British clubs – and it’s going in the wrong direction for fans.

“I can’t think that it’s the right way forward.”

The Prime Minister added: “People in this country are committed to the success of their local clubs. I don’t think you want to deracinate it (club football) and create this European Super League, which would basically take a lot of the cash away from clubs that really need it.”

While speaking in the Commons, Mr Dowden said: “The owners of those clubs won't have been able to ignore the near universal roar of outrage from all parts of the football community over the past 24 hours. This move indeed goes against the very spirit of the game.”

He added: “These owners should remember that they are only temporary custodians of their clubs, and they forget fans at their peril.”

Mr Dowden told MPs how he had planned to launch a review of football once fans had fully returned to stadiums after the pandemic, but he now felt forced to launch the probe immediately.

“We will not stand by and watch football be cravenly stripped of the things that make millions across the country love it,” he said.

“The Government wouldn't hesitate to act when other treasured areas of our national life are under threat, nor will we hesitate to protect one of our greatest national institutions, football.”

Mr Dowden said he had met with football authorities and he said those organisations were looking at the options available to them.

“If they can't act, we will,” he said.

“We will put everything on the table to prevent this from happening. We are examining every option from governance reform to competition law and mechanisms that allow football to take place. Put simply, we will be reviewing everything the Government does to support these clubs to play.”

Mr Dowden said the review, to be led by former sports minister Tracey Crouch, “will be a root and branch examination of football in this country”.

“It will cover the financial sustainability of the men's and women's game, governance and regulation, and the merits of an independent regulator.

“Crucially, in the light of this weekend's proposal, it will also consider how fans can have an even greater say in the oversight of the game, and the models, which might best achieve that,” he said.

And he pointed towards Germany where fans own 51 per cent of clubs and no teams had signed up to the Super League adding there was “merit” to the system.

Shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens called this “a watershed moment for our national game”.

She said of Mr Dowden’s statement: “It is short on detail and the urgency that this situation merits”.

Ms Stevens went on: “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 future of our national game and all our clubs depend on it.”

A statement from the new league said the competition would provide "significantly greater economic growth and support for European football via a long-term commitment to uncapped solidarity payments which will grow in line with league revenues."

Florentino Perez, the first chairman of the Super League and Real Madrid president, said: "We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world.

"Football is the only global sport in the world with more than four billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to their desires."