March 2 (Reuters) - Former England defender Gary Neville believes Roman Abramovich and other foreign owners have been good for the Premier League, saying the English top flight has become more competitive as a result.
Russian businessman Abramovich said on Wednesday he would sell Chelsea Football Club, 19 years after buying the team, amid growing calls for the 55-year-old to be hit by sanctions after Russia's invasion of its neighbour Ukraine. read more
Abramovich said that a sale was in the best interests of the reigning European champions, and Neville, speaking at the Financial Times Football Business Summit before news broke of Chelsea's sale, defended the metals magnate and overseas investment in the English game.
Neville said the "alleged links between Abramovich and (Russian President Vladimir) Putin", which the Chelsea owner has denied, caused problems for the club but should not lead to Abramovich being kicked out of English football.
The Premier League, he said, had benefited from the Russian's involvement.
"He (Abramovich) has been an owner of Chelsea now for 20 years and from my point of view I have spoken openly about how I have welcomed the challenge to the historical elite, which was Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.
"New money into Chelsea, Blackburn all those years ago when Jack Walker put money in, Leicester City winning the league, Manchester City and the Abu Dhabi wealth, I do believe we are a stronger league for it, more competitive and admired all around the world."
Neville also believes the idea of a European Super League - which spectacularly failed to get off the ground last April - will make a comeback among English clubs unless the game has an independent regulator.
"I don't believe the hierarchy in elite football that exists is going to go away," he added. "They want more money, they're in it to create more wealth for themselves.
"They've not really got a great interest in the wider game beyond their own clubs. (British lawmaker) Tracey Crouch has done a fantastic fan-led review, it's a great report, it now needs to move through legislation in Parliament.
"If it does then I will finally believe that the European Super League is dead. Until that point, I don't believe the European Super League is dead, I believe it will come back – rehashed, reworked, with a cherry on it this time."
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