European Super League offends principles of competition - Boris Johnson

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Image caption,
Fans protested against the proposed league outside Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium on Tuesday

Plans for a European Super League offend "the basic principles of competition", Boris Johnson has said.

Describing the proposal as a "cartel", the prime minister said he would use legislation to block it if needed.

The 12 founding members of the league faced a fierce backlash after unveiling proposals for a breakaway tournament, in which they would be permanent members and not face relegation.

But Real Madrid insisted they were doing it to "save football".

Asked about the proposed league at a Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson said: "I think it's not in the interests of fans, it's not in the interests of football.

"How can it be right to have a situation in which you create a kind of cartel that stops clubs competing against each other, playing against each other properly, with all the hope and excitement that gives to the fans up and down the country?"

"These clubs, these names, originate from famous towns and cities in our country," he added.

"I don't think that it is right that they should be somehow dislocated from their home towns, home cities, taken and turned into international brands and commodities that just circulate the planet, propelled by the billions of banks, without any reference to fans and to those who have loved them all their lives."

Asked what legislative measures the government might use, the prime minister said: "What we want to do first of all is back the FA, back the Premier League and hope that we can thwart this proposal before it goes very much further."

Earlier, the prime minister met with FA and Premier League officials, as well as fans' representatives.

The prime minister's official spokesman said among the measures under consideration were preventing players of the clubs involved getting work visas and the withdrawal of police funding for match days.

How would the European Super League work?

Six English clubs - Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham - have signed up to the league.

They would join Spanish sides Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona and Italian clubs AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan.

The competition would have 20 teams and another five sides would have to qualify each year for the competition.

Matches would take place midweek in an attempt to have more matches between the big-name clubs and rival the existing Champions League.

The plans revealed on Sunday that the 12 founding football clubs would be permanent members and never face relegation.

Critics say the new league could supplant the existing Champions League and disrupt the current football "pyramid" that sees teams rise or fall on merit.

Read more here.

Real Madrid's president Florentino Perez has defended the decision to create the new league, saying it was taken in part because "young people are no longer interested" in the game.

He told a Spanish TV show: "Audiences are decreasing and rights are decreasing and something had to be done. We are all ruined. Television has to change so we can adapt."

The president of European football's governing body Uefa, Aleksander Ceferin, has warned that players for teams in the ESL would be "banned from the World Cup and the Euros".

But in a letter to Uefa and Fifa, seen by the BBC, lawyers for the ESL say they have filed injunctions to prevent player and club bans, saying they consider such actions to be "unlawful".

An insider at the ESL said they had prepared themselves for a huge backlash, and thought they were on firm legal ground with respect to competition law.

"I think in the cold light of day, they are looking at this and the reality is dawning that this is happening and it's perfectly legal," they told the BBC.

A Spanish court has temporarily blocked any attempt by Uefa or Fifa to ban clubs or players from leagues or competitions, in an interim ruling to prevent any bans before the legal basis of them can be tested.

ESL insiders said "this looks aggressive but we had to take defensive action in the face of threats from Uefa and Fifa - our hope is we can ultimately resolve this in negotiations".

Media caption,
Alan Shearer says the proposed European Super League is "plain and simply wrong"

The 14 Premier League clubs not participating in the new venture "unanimously and vigorously" rejected the plans for the competition and are "considering all actions available to prevent it from progressing".

In a statement on Tuesday, they called on the founding members of the ESL to "cease their involvement immediately".

There have been protests by fans across the country against the proposed league, including outside Chelsea's Stamford Bridge ground on Tuesday.

Gianni Infantino, president of the world football's governing body Fifa, also said he "strongly disapproves of the plans".

"If some elect to go their own way, they must live with the consequences of their choice. They are responsible for their choice completely," he said.

"This means you are either in or you are out. You cannot be half in and half out," he said.

Media caption,
'Football is meant to be on merit' - fans react to European Super League proposals

The proposed league has united MPs from every party against it. Suggestions from MPs on action the government could take include governance reform, changes to competition law, changes to taxpayer support for clubs and border controls on arrivals into the UK.

UK watchdog the Competition and Markets Authority said it would be "carefully considering any competition aspects of these proposals".

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he thought the "threat of legislation will have an effect" but the government needed to act quickly.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey called for "real action" from the government, suggesting a new law requiring owners to ballot season ticket holders before committing clubs to newly formed competitions.

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