London (AFP) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned “no action is off the table” — including new legislation — to stop the European Super League after meeting with football chiefs and fan groups on Tuesday.
His comments came as FIFA president Gianni Infantino warned the breakaway competition could face “consequences”, with the backlash building against the deeply divisive plans.
Twelve powerful clubs — six from England, and three each from Spain and Italy — have signed up for the Super League, which offers guaranteed spots for its founding members and billions of dollars in payments.
The English clubs, the Premier League’s so-called “big six”, are Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham.
At a meeting with the English Football Association and the Premier League, Prime Minister Johnson voiced his “unwavering support” for the efforts of football chiefs to prevent the formation of a breakaway competition.
“The prime minister confirmed the government will not stand by while a small handful of owners create a closed shop,” Downing Street said in a statement.
“He was clear that no action is off the table and the government is exploring every possibility, including legislative options, to ensure these proposals are stopped.”
An emergency Premier League meeting involving the 14 clubs not involved in the Super League plans was set to take place on Tuesday.
FIFA chief Infantino leant his support to European football’s governing body UEFA as it attempts to quash an initiative that threatens its prized Champions League and the health of domestic competitions such as the Premier League.
And UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin implored club owners, particularly those of Premier League teams, to row back on the plans.
“There’s still time to change your mind. Everyone makes mistakes,” said the Slovenian. “English fans deserve to have you correct your mistake, they deserve respect.”
Liverpool’s city rivals Everton accused the breakaway Premier League clubs of “preposterous arrogance”.
“Six clubs acting entirely in their own interests,” the club said in a statement. “Six clubs tarnishing the reputation of our league and the game.
“Six clubs choosing to disrespect every other club with whom they sit around the Premier League table.”
– Serious threat’ –
Supporters are planning to protest outside Stamford Bridge before Chelsea’s Premier League game with Brighton on Tuesday evening.
The six English clubs joined forces with Spanish giants Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid as well as Italian trio Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan to launch the Super League.
Three more clubs are expected to sign up, including “at least two” from France, a source told AFP. Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain are a notable absentee, while Bayern Munich, the reigning European champions, have distanced themselves from the project.
Five more clubs will qualify annually for the 20-team, midweek competition, in which two groups of 10 will precede two-legged quarter- and semi-finals and a one-off final. The competition is due for launch “as soon as is practicable”.
It constitutes a serious threat to UEFA, who together with the English, Spanish and Italian football authorities said the Super League clubs could be banned from domestic and European competition.
The Super League announcement came just hours before UEFA announced on Monday a new, 36-team format for the Champions League, which had been conceived to placate the continent’s biggest clubs.