U.K. Mulls Legal Options to Block Breakaway Soccer League

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The U.K. said it is “unequivocal” in its opposition to the proposed European breakaway soccer league comprising the world’s richest clubs, and is considering using legislation to block it.

“We don’t want this to go ahead in the current form,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, Max Blain, told reporters Tuesday. “We are exploring a range of options, including legislative ones.”

Johnson and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden held a meeting with U.K. football authorities and fan groups on Tuesday, at which the premier said the government supports all actions necessary to stop the proposed league from proceeding.

The European Super League has triggered widespread condemnation from supporters and politicians, sparking the biggest crisis in European soccer in a generation. Six of the founding clubs come from England’s Premier League: Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur.

Closed Shop

At the heart of the dispute is the Super League plan to operate on a mostly exclusive basis, with slots reserved for 15 teams who can’t be relegated, and places for five more who qualify each season to make a 20-team competition.

Critics say that cements an elite hierarchy in European football that won’t be broken because broadcast and other revenue will concentrate on the league.

In its summary of Johnson’s meeting on Tuesday, the government also indicated it may consider that approach to be anticompetitive.

“All attendees agreed that action was necessary to protect the fairness and open competition we expect to see in football, and to uphold the fundamental principle that any club should have the chance to play and win against the biggest players in the game,” it said.

Competition Law

Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, Dowden said the government would consider its options under competition law, and whether to withdraw support for facilitating matches played by those clubs.

Asked whether the government might also consider measures such as restricting work permits for overseas players or not providing policing at their games, Blain said all options are being considered.

Separately, the government has launched a fan-led review of soccer in Britain, led by former sports minister Tracey Crouch. The review will look at the sport’s governance and how fans might be given more control over the game.

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