Boris Johnson condemns ‘very damaging’ European Super League

Credit: PA

Football clubs who have agreed to join a European Super League “must answer to their fans” before going ahead with the “very damaging” change, the Prime Minister has said.

Boris Johnson posted his views on Twitter on Sunday evening, criticising the prospect of six English clubs possibly joining a breakaway continental league.

It comes as six of England's top football clubs have confirmed their involvement in a breakaway European Super League, despite earlier reports sparking widespread anger among footballing bodies and fans.

How could the Super League impact football? ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott takes a look.

Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham are among the teams signed up to the controversial plan.

Top associations including UEFA, the English Football Association and the Premier League have said they're "united in [their] efforts" to prevent the "cynical project".

Before the plans were confirmed late on Sunday night, the footballing bodies said clubs that sign up to the league will be banned from playing in any other domestic, European or international competitions, while their players could be prevented from representing national teams.

Boris Johnson also responded to the reports, saying such plans "would be very damaging for football".

Despite the backlash, the clubs involved said the season will commence "as soon as practicable".

In a statement, they said they do not feel UEFA’s proposed changes to the Champions League – which are due to be confirmed on Monday – go far enough.

It added: "For a number of years, the founding clubs have had the objective of improving the quality and intensity of existing European competitions throughout each season, and of creating a format for top clubs and players to compete on a regular basis.

“The pandemic has shown that a strategic vision and a sustainable commercial approach are required to enhance value and support for the benefit of the entire European football pyramid."

Three other teams are expected to join the twelve clubs announced on Sunday. A further five teams will qualify annually "based on achievements in the prior season".The format will see two groups of 10 clubs who play home and away, with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for the quarter finals. Teams finishing fourth and fifth will then compete in a two-legged play-off for the remaining quarter-final positions. A two-leg knockout format will be used to reach the final.

Sports Editor Steve Scott explains why condemnation has been near-universal

The statement said matches will be mid-week and clubs will still play in domestic leagues.

A prior statement from UEFA, the English Football Association, the Premier League, the Royal Spanish Football Federation, LaLiga, the Italian Football Federation and Lega Serie A said they had "learned that a few English, Spanish and Italian clubs may be planning to announce their creation of a closed, so-called Super League.

"If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we...will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever."

The statement added that bodies would consider all measures to oppose the Super League, "both judicial and sporting".

It continued: "As previously announced by FIFA and the six Federations, the clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams. "

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said any decisions should involve fans.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has said the plans "concern" him. Credit: Yui Mok/PA

In a statement he said: “Football supporters are the heartbeat of our national sport and any major decisions made should have their backing.

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

Which football teams have announced their involvement?

AC Milan, Arsenal FC, Atlético de Madrid, Chelsea FC, FC Barcelona, FC Internazionale Milano, Juventus FC, Liverpool FC, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid CF and Tottenham Hotspur have all joined as founding clubs.

Why might the announcement have been made now?

The timing is interesting because on Monday, UEFA was due to confirm changes to the format of the Champions League. The changes were drawn up largely to appease clubs who wanted a guarantee of more fixtures and – most controversially – more certainty they would be involved in the lucrative competition in the first place.

The announcement would seem to be a direct challenge to UEFA, which has tried to balance the interests of all clubs and leagues in its changes.

How would clubs benefit from this new Super League?

Principally, by being guaranteed entry – and the revenue that goes with it – each year. Even with the proposed changes to the Champions League, there remains a possibility teams could fail to qualify. This would eliminate that risk.

On the publication of the Premier League's individual statement, presenter and former England footballer Lineker added: “Don’t panic….alright then, let’s panic.”

Gary Neville, speaking on Sky Sports, said: “I’m not against the modernisation of football competitions, we have the Premier League, the Champions League, but I think to bring forward proposals in the midst of Covid and the economic crisis for all clubs is an absolute scandal.

“United and the rest of the Big Six that have signed up to it against the rest of the Premier League should be ashamed of themselves.

“They should deduct six points off all six teams that have signed up to it. Deduct points off them all. To do it during a season? It’s a joke.”

Neville’s former United teammate Roy Keane added: “I think it comes down to money and greed. Obviously, we’ve not heard anything from FIFA yet, but it doesn’t sound good.

“Let’s hope it is stopped in its tracks. It’s just pure greed.”

EFL chairman Rick Parry says it would be a “major threat” to the Carabao Cup and the FA also wrote to UEFA to express its concerns.

Fans groups, including those from Manchester United and Arsenal, said in an open letter to ECA chairman and Juventus boss Andrea Agnelli that the plans to restructure the Champions League “present a serious threat to the entire game”.

The letter, signed by 17 fans’ groups from 14 teams whose clubs are in the ECA, including Ajax, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, said it was a “blatant power grab” and would “wreck domestic calendars”.