European Super League: Boris Johnson commits to blocking plans for breakaway

Video report by ITV News Correspondent Juliet Bremner

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has committed to blocking the formation of a European Super League for elite football clubs, saying he will "look at everything that we can do" to stop the plans going ahead in their current form.

Mr Johnson condemned English football teams for being part of plans to breakaway from the Premier League, saying the proposals were not "good news for fans".

It was announced on Sunday evening that Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham are among 12 clubs who have committed to the project.

All of the founding teams would be guaranteed a spot in the breakaway competition regardless of performance in their domestic leagues and would stand to earn hundreds of millions of pounds.

Uefa President Aleksander Čeferin said any player participating in the European Super League would "not be allowed play for their national teams”.

Asked if teams joining the league could be compelled to pay back state-backed coronavirus loans, Mr Johnson said: "We are going to look at everything that we can do with the football authorities to make sure that this doesn't go ahead in the way that it's currently being proposed.

"I don't think that it's good news for fans, I don't think it's good news for football in this country."

Speaking to reporters during a campaign visit to Gloucestershire he said: "These clubs are not just great global brands - of course they're great global brands - they're also clubs that have originated historically from their towns, from their cities, from their local communities, they should have a link with those fans, and with the fan base in their community.

"So it is very, very important that that continues to be the case. I don't like the look of these proposals, and we'll be consulted about what we can do."

He is looking at a "range of options" to prevent the breakaway league, including fan-ownership of clubs and clawing back coronavirus support loans.

Asked if the PM backs a German-style system of 51% fan ownership of clubs, his spokesman said: "I've seen a number of proposals that have been put forward as potential solutions or mitigations for this, I'm not at this stage planning on getting into each one.

"We're considering a range of options and the Prime Minister wants to look at everything we can do here to make sure these proposals don't go ahead as proposed."

Juliet Bremner breaks down why opposition is so widespread and what could happen next

The spokesman was also asked about a proposal of clawing back taxpayer money given to clubs in coronavirus loans.

"Again, another suggestion put forward. We want to look at everything possible, we're not ruling anything in or out, we want to look at the options," the spokesman said.

Asked about new legislation or existing competition regulations being used, he said: "We're not looking to rule anything out at this stage."

The Football Association’s former chairman said he is “ashamed” of the English football clubs committing to joining a European Super League.

David Bernstein, who was also once Manchester City’s chairman, has joined a growing chorus of respected voices within the game in condemning the controversial plans.

“I’m ashamed. I’ve supported Manchester City all my life,” he told Radio Four.

“It’s a club I love. But I’m really ashamed, as I know Gary Neville has said he is about his old club Manchester United, and I think Jamie Carragher and Liverpool.

“I’m ashamed as clubs with that history should have great responsibility to the rest of the game.”

His criticism comes after former Manchester United and England defender Neville labelled the football clubs a “disgrace”, while former United manager Sir Alex Ferguson also opposed the plan.

Former Liverpool player and club legend Jamie Carragher said he is “sickened” by his club’s stance.

The football clubs – self-styled as the Premier League’s “top six” – join Spain’s Real Madrid, Barcelona and Athletico Madrid along with Juventus, Internazionale and AC Milan from Italy.

And Bernstein believes there are two driving factors attracting clubs to the Super League, adding: “I think there are two things in play here: one is greed and the other is desperation.

“And it’s because some of these clubs have incurred enormous debt. I believe certainly Barcelona and Real Madrid, and I think at least one of the English clubs, are approaching a billion pounds of debt.

“I think they’re in a desperate situation. One of the things they haven’t done during the pandemic is to impose some sort of wages control. They’ve got themselves into a bit of a predicament.”

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

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".

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, meanwhile, said any decisions should involve fans.

While all clubs involved intend to continue participation in domestic competitions, they would withdraw from UEFA (Europe’s football governing body) competitions – the Champions League and the Europa League.

UEFA has warned clubs signing up to the breakaway league would be banned from all its competitions.

Football authorities have even warned any players taking part in the new league could be banned from representing their country – meaning, for example, Tottenham striker and England captain Harry Kane could be ineligible for the national squad.

Downing Street said details of the fan-led review of football governance promised in the last Tory manifesto will be set out "in due course".

PM Johnson's spokesman said: "We've continued to work closely with fans and football stakeholders on issues.

"I think, as I'm sure you'll accept, the focus has been on the global pandemic and the response to that, and that includes protecting the immediate future of football clubs, but we will build on this with our fan-led Government review as soon as possible."

Asked when it will get the go-ahead, he said: "We will set out details in due course."