European political leaders promise to block the Super League football plan
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to block an attempt by the 12 largest football teams in Europe to create an elite “super league” as the latest sign of growing political backlash against the initiative, which threatens to praise the sport.
“The prime minister has confirmed that the government will not be retained until a few owners create a closed store,” Johnson’s office said Tuesday. “He made it clear that there is no action on the table and the government is looking at all options, including legislative options, to stop these proposals.”
The Prime Minister’s stance escalates widespread disapproval of governments such as France, Spain, Italy and Greece against a proposal that would weaken the current European championships and harm the smallest clubs. Clément Beaune, the French European minister, called the plan “against nature” and said France could take action when it takes over the EU presidency next year if the situation is not resolved by then.
“Money is the result of a system that is king and that excludes merit and solidarity,” he said on Tuesday, arguing that it would seriously damage basic football. “We need to rule out this kind of close competition based on money, the end of the story.”
Beaune’s comments follow the reports over the weekend President Emmanuel Macron, a football fan, said he would support initiatives to block plans by football authorities.
Of the 12 teams that have registered, six come from the English Premier League, three from Serie A in Italy and three from the Spanish League. But Paris St Germain in France and Bayern Munich in Germany, one of the richest teams in Europe and two top teams, have not joined the initiative.
The plan would allow it to compete against member clubs without the risk of relegation and thus ensure a steady income. But political leaders, supporters and existing football authorities said the meritocratic aspect of European football would die, built on a home league system in which clubs compete and can rise or fall based on their performance.
The breakaway initiative has caused grief among other groups in major European departments. If the competition goes ahead, it would be a loss of agreements to make a profit on television.
“The proposal to form a closed league for some wealthy European clubs goes completely against the history and tradition of the game. It is wrong, plain and simple,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Tuesday. “The fans won’t accept it.”
The Italian government of Mario Draghi said on Monday that “Italian and European football authorities will accept decisions to preserve national competition, meritocratic values and the social function of sport.”
Aleksander Ceferin, president of the European football governing body Uefa, has called the plans shameful and has threatened to ban players from joining the league from competing in international competitions, such as the World Cup.
Nasser Al-Khelaifi, president of the French club owned by Paris Saint-Germain, is committed to continuing in the Champions League, currently competing in a continental club run by Uefa.
“Any proposal without Uefa’s support – an organization that has been working to advance the interests of European football for almost 70 years – believes that it does not solve the problems facing the football community today, but promotes self-interest.”
Al-Khelaifi is also the owner of DoIN-based beIN Sports, a broadcaster that has spent billions of euros to acquire television projection rights for football competitions, including in the Champions League.
The jury found out whether the government will increase the pressure to prevent the implementation of the plans and increase the anger of the people. Simon Chadwick, a professor of Eurasian sports at EMLyon Business School, said that despite the anger of many capitals, European governments could struggle to intervene.
“Countries or the EU can pose threats to exclude players or ban teams but for me that is pure rhetoric,” he added. “Over the last decade they’ve been like Amazon and the tax – European countries have tried to control corporations that they can’t control in many ways and they haven’t succeeded.”
In Italy, other owners of the football club responded angrily to the announcement. Urbano Cairo, the Italian businessman who is the president of the Torino football club, called the teams that were planning to move away from Serie A “judas”.
“They should be ashamed of themselves. The Superliga project will not be a success, but to think about it means trying to make a living in Serie A ”.
The plan was a “grave insult” to European football culture and was described as an “existential threat” to clubs by the French football association on Tuesday.
The Spanish government has also come out against the plans, with three La Liga teams taking part: Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid.
Fabrizio Zaccari, head of the Lazio Brussels Supporters Club, one of Rome’s two biggest teams and who has not joined the initiative, said it would ruin the integrity of the sport he loved.
“It will completely distort the system, create a model that is close to the American show and will only help the participating teams,” he said. “But we shouldn’t be surprised. Economic interests have been wreaking havoc on the sport for years. “
Additional reports by Daniel Dombey in Madrid, Eleni Varvitsio in Athens, Davide Ghiglione in Rome and Erika Solomon in Berlin.