Soccer UK minister says will act to stop Super League breakaway

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Britain's Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden walks outside Downing Street, in London
Britain's Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden walks outside Downing Street, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in London, Britain, April 14, 2021. REUTERS/John Sibley/Files

LONDON, April 19 (Reuters) - Britain will do everything possible to block a new European soccer Super League and is examining options to penalise the six English teams that have signed up, sports minister Oliver Dowden said on Monday.

Dowden said he had met with the Premier League, the Football Association (FA) and the president of UEFA, to discuss the plans that involve Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was quick to object to the plans on Sunday evening, while Prince William, Queen Elizabeth's grandson who is president of the English Football Association, also added royal criticism to the howls of protests at the plan.

Addressing parliament on Monday, Dowden said the government would seek to block the project if football authorities could not.

"Be in no doubt, if they can't act, we will," he told parliament. "We will put everything on the table to prevent this from happening.

"We are examining every option from governance reform to competition law and mechanisms that allow football to take place. Put simply, we will be reviewing everything the government does to support these clubs to play," he said.

"We will do what ever it takes to protect our national game."

Over the course of an hour-long session in parliament, the breakaway plan was roundly criticised from lawmakers from all major parties.

Asked variously whether measures under consideration included a windfall tax on breakaway clubs, examining different ownership models and reviewing whether players would be allowed into the country to take part in matches, Dowden said he was looking at all options.

"In essence we're looking at 'what does the government do to facilitate matches and facilitate those clubs?' and looking at whether we should continue to provide that support, because it does not strike me that the government should be providing that support in the face of this proposal," he said.

Dowden said that the government had looked at a German model of majority fan-ownership of clubs, and that he expected it would be looked at in an upcoming fan-led review of football. read more

In a message on Twitter, Prince William also expressed his concern.

"Now, more than ever, we must protect the entire football community – from the top level to the grassroots – and the values of competition and fairness at its core," he said.

"I share the concerns of fans about the proposed Super League and the damage it risks causing to the game we love."

Reporting by William James and Alistair Smout; Editing by Kate Holton

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William leads the UK Breaking News team, making sure Reuters is first to report key developments in political, economic and general news. He previously spent nearly a decade in Westminster as UK Political Correspondent and before that covered financial markets during the euro zone debt crisis.