The Premier League and the Football Association have made their first major move to stop England’s six richest clubs from ever again forming a breakaway league.
With fans still furious over the fact that Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham secretly signed up to the doomed European Super League, the Premier League has announced a new Owners’ Charter. This will require clubs to sign up to a series of core principles, including an open pyramid, progressions through sporting merit and the highest standards of sporting integrity in order to “protect our game” and stave off “the threat of breakaway leagues in the future”.
The Premier League is proposing “significant sanctions” for any breaches, understood to include potential bans from the league. In partnership with FA chief executive Mark Bullingham, it has also been working with government on possible competition legislation that would outlaw breakaway leagues.
The FA has separately launched an inquiry into the English clubs’ involvement in the Super League but stressed on Monday that it could not condone the “violent and criminal behaviour” during protests which forced Manchester United’s match against Liverpool to be postponed on Sunday. Of the Super League, an FA spokesperson said: “Clearly what happened was unacceptable and could have caused great harm to clubs at every level of English football.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson had promised a “legislative bomb” if clubs pushed through with the plot and football authorities still want legal safeguards over fair access to sporting competition.
The Premier League has been gathering support for its Owners’ Charter, although it is unclear whether they can retrospectively force it on all of their various billionaire owners. Changes of Premier League rules generally require the support of 14 out of the 20 clubs, meaning that it could potentially be introduced even without the Big Six. Representatives of the rebels clubs have already been forced off key Premier League committees.
In a statement, the Premier League said that the “actions of a few clubs cannot be allowed to create such division and disruption” and that they would be held to account for their decisions.
“We are committed to maintaining close dialogue with supporters and their representatives, as we work with the FA and government to identify solutions, but ask that all protests are peaceful,” said the statement. “The actions of a minority of those present at Old Trafford on Sunday have no justification.”
Malcolm Clarke, chair of the Football Supporters’ Association, said that a “seismic” moment had arrived in English football and stressed that the Government’s review into football, which will be overseen by former sports minister Tracey Crouch, must lead to meaningful fan involvement.
“[A football club] is a bit like a listed building,” said Clarke. “Just because you own it, doesn’t mean you should be able to do what you want with it. What this whole episode shows is how frustrated supporters are.
“If the ‘rebel six’ have done one good thing for us, they have pushed those issues right to the top of the political agenda and public agenda in a way that some of us have been trying for decades.
“It may well be that this could be a seismic moment for English football when we get the reforms that many of us have been pressing for for decades.
“It’s good to see established figures associated with those two clubs – Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher – fully supporting this.” The Government has promised that the fan-led review, which is expected to take six months, “will examine the potential for changes to ownership models, governance, how finance flows through the game and how to give supporters a greater say”.
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