By Benjamin Cooper and Gavin Cordon, PA
Boris Johnson will host a round table with representatives from football governing bodies including the FA and the Premier League as well as fans’ representatives on Tuesday to discuss the proposed European Super League.
The so-called Big Six of the English Premier League faced a furious backlash after the unveiling of proposals for a breakaway tournament.
The British prime minister promised football fans prior to Tuesday’s meeting he will do everything possible to give the “ludicrous” new league a “straight red”.
Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge – who is the president of the Football Association – was among those who voiced his dismay at the “damage” the plan would do to the game.
You can rest assured that I’m going to do everything I can to give this ludicrous plan a straight red
Writing in The Sun, Mr Johnson said he was “horrified” at the implications for clubs up and down the country which had a “unique place” at the heart of their communities.
In a direct message to fans, he said: “It is your game – and you can rest assured that I’m going to do everything I can to give this ludicrous plan a straight red.”
There were protests outside grounds around England on Monday at the scheme put forward by Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham together with six leading Spanish and Italian clubs.
Fans of both Liverpool and Leeds gathered outside the Yorkshire club’s Elland Road stadium before their evening fixture while a plane flew overhead with a banner proclaiming “Say No To Super League”.
Now, more than ever, we must protect the entire football community – from the top level to the grassroots – and the values of competition and fairness at its core.
I share the concerns of fans about the proposed Super League and the damage it risks causing to the game we love. W
— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) April 19, 2021
The plan has been roundly condemned by both the FA and the Premier League while Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin has warned players who take part could be banned from representing their countries in the World Cup and Euros.
It is understood the Premier League has called its other 14 clubs to an emergency shareholders’ meeting on Tuesday morning, to which the so-called Big Six have not been invited.
There has been widespread anger at the failure of any of the wealthy overseas owners of the clubs involved to come forward to justify the plan, with accusations that it was being driven by greed.
Fans and former players alike lined up to condemn a scheme which they said would create a closed shop of elite teams which would not have to qualify for the competition and could not be relegated.
In the UK Commons on Monday, culture secretary Oliver Dowden said that in the first instance it would be for the football authorities to prevent the English clubs from going ahead with the Super League.
But, amid condemnation of the proposal from across the political spectrum, he said that if they were unable to do so, the government would do “whatever it takes” to protect the national game.
We will do whatever it takes to protect our national game.
These clubs have decided to put money before fans - so today I have been left with no choice but to formally trigger the launch of our fan-led review of football. pic.twitter.com/EkFoinB0xJ
— Oliver Dowden (@OliverDowden) April 19, 2021
He said they were examining every option “from governance to competition law to mechanisms that allow football to take place”.
Mr Dowden also announced that he was bringing forward a wider fan-led review of the game to be helmed by former sports minister Tracey Crouch.
Prince William, meanwhile, tweeted to say he shared the concerns of fans about “the damage it risks causing to the game we love”.
“Now, more than ever, we must protect the entire football community – from the top level to the grassroots – and the values of competition and fairness at its core,” he said.
The plan – which also includes the Spanish sides Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona and Italian clubs AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan – has support from investment bank JP Morgan, which will provide debt financing for the competition.
It is understood it will underwrite around six billion US dollars (€4.9 billion) in loans for teams involved.
It would see the breakaway teams create a competition to rival the Champions League, but it would not feature relegation or promotion.
Teams would play each other in midweek while still competing in their domestic leagues.
UK Labour leader Keir Starmer said it “cuts across all the things that make football great”.
Mr Starmer, an Arsenal supporter, said: “It diminishes competition. It pulls up the drawbridge. It is designed for and by a small elite. But worst of all, it ignores the fans.”