UK government orders football review over ‘tone -deaf’ super league plan

Culture secretary pledges to oppose breakaway plan and to seek ways to empower fans

Boris Johnson's government has ordered a "root and branch" review of football following Sunday's announcement that six English clubs plan to join others in Europe in setting up a new "super league".

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden told the House of Commons he was appalled by Sunday's announcement, describing it as a "tone-deaf proposal" that went against the spirit of the game.

“We will not stand by and watch football be cravenly stripped of the things that make us love it. We will not hesitate to protect one of our greatest national institutions – football,” he said.

“We will put everything on the table to prevent this from happening. We need a proper examination of the long-term future of football. Year after year, football fans demonstrate unwavering loyalty and passion, but this is being abused by a small number of individuals who wield power and influence. These owners should remember they are only temporary custodians of these clubs and they ignore fans at their peril.”


Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur said on Sunday they would join six European clubs in establishing the new super league. Its founding members would not have to qualify each year to play in the league and could never be relegated.

‘Fan-led’ review

Mr Dowden said the government was bringing forward a "fan-led" review of all aspects of football, including the financial stability and sustainability of the men's and women's game governance and regulation, and would consider how fans could have a greater say in how clubs are run. He said Tracy Crouch, a popular Conservative backbench MP who is a qualified football coach, would lead the review.

“We are examining every option, from governance reform to competition law and mechanisms that allow football to take place,” he said. “Put simply, we will be reviewing everything the government does to support these clubs to play. I have discussed these options with the prime minister this morning, and we are working at pace across government and with the football authorities. We will do whatever it takes to protect our national game.”

Mr Dowden said the German model, under which supporters control a majority of club voting rights, was among the ideas the review would consider.

Earlier on Monday, Mr Johnson said his government would do all it could in cooperation with the football authorities to ensure that the super league would not go ahead as planned.

“I don’t think that it’s good news for fans, I don’t think it’s good news for football in this country,” 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.”

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times