Ministers have come up with radical plans to reduce the money the European Super League could make from broadcasting rights in the UK by forcing the ill-conceived project to be free to air. Sportsmail can reveal.
The extraordinary proposal was part of the “legislative bomb” that Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden prepared to fall into the Big Six rebel clubs after they announced they would join the breakaway league.
And that was just one strand in an explosive policy package that included the use of competition law and tax laws to block the takeover.
A Manchester City supporter joined Chelsea fans to protest the runaway league
Fans across the country protested against plans for a European Super League
Prime Minister Boris Johnson considered a radical set of options for a “legislative bomb”.
It was all designed to chase the conspirators out of the water and show how far Johnson and Dowden were willing to overthrow the Super League and how frustrated the government has become with some aspects of the national game and the self-interest of some clubs.
Her frustration with the national game – and the power structures behind it – is now fueling her determination to reform the game based on the outcome of a fan-led review launched this week.
Sportsmail assumes that politicians and officials were at action stations from late afternoon on Sunday. Mark Bullingham, the executive director of the football association, is said to have sounded the alarm about the upcoming announcement of the Super League
Juventus boss Andrea Agnelli was a key player in the plans for the European Super League
Given that other party leaders were equally appalled at the enrichment of a few clubs at the expense of the many, the way through parliament to make legislative changes was clear.
When Johnson and Dowden stuck to their goals and fans took to the streets to protest their clubs’ abuse, club owners and executives were caught in a pincer movement.
Typically, Big Six executives and owners kept their heads bowed.
In a two-day siege, they never sought contact with the government. But when they bunkered down and hoped the storm would be so cleverly whipped up by the former lawyer and UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin would now pass, their lawyers must have declared it was game over.
Fans across Europe saw the closed Super League as a step too far
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has launched a fan-led review of the football leadership and worked with Prime Minister Boris Johnson to prepare a “legislative bomb” to stop the Super League conspirators
With severe reputational damage and against remarkably staunch politicians willing to use their trump card – parliament – to change the law and block the hated project, surrender was the only option. And one by one they came out with their hands up.
Ministers considered amending the Broadcasting Act of 1996, which would allow the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to draw up a list of sporting events of national interest. This means that the broadcasting rights for these events must be offered to the main free-to-air terrestrial broadcasters on “fair and reasonable terms”.
Worrying for the Big Six, ministers are poised to resume a long-running review of how the national game is being played with the same force.
Boris Johnson said on the Prime Minister’s Questions Wednesday that former Sports Secretary Tracey Crouch will “conduct a thorough study of the governance of football and the steps we can take to promote the role of fans in that governance”.
Supporters gathered at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday to protest the European Super League
Fans also urged Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to “do the right thing”.
This essentially signals the beginning of the long-awaited fan-led government review of football.
The appointment of Crouch, a Conservative MP, is seen as another signal that the government is doing business, given its expertise and reputation as an independent thinker.
And in the current climate, she will have a free hand in the scrutiny of the Secretary of Culture.
“You couldn’t ask for a better springboard for reform,” a source said after the Super League debacle.
Dowden was open about the previous Big Six takeover of football – Project Big Picture – and was disappointed with the amount of time and negotiation it took before the major leagues agree to financial aid for the minor leagues during the worst days of the pandemic.
When the plans for the European Super League landed, his patience was reportedly exhausted.
“The immediate legislation we wanted to prepare was to address this imminent threat from this outrageous proposal,” Dowden told Talksport.
While the fan-led review will be a longer term process, officials insist the pace will not slow down.
It will examine the financial distribution, governance, and fan involvement and experience. This is expected to include ideas around an independent regulator of football and involving fans more directly in governing the game and clubs.
Dowden has shown the government’s interest in the German model.
“Of course we have to learn the lessons from the football finance crisis during the COVID crisis,” Dowden told the broadcaster. ‘We have to put this on a more sustainable basis.
“For example, they have a different governance structure in the German leagues, so it’s right that we look at these things.
In this model, only 49 percent of clubs are privately owned.
Kevin Miles, executive director of the Football Supporters Association, met with the prime minister earlier this week to discuss the review of the football.
He said: ‘The events of the past few days have cleared once and for all any debate about whether or not the mandate of the fan-led review should be broad and far-reaching.
‘We are clearly at a point where the entire future of the game is at stake. And the review is a once in a lifetime opportunity to protect the future of the game. ‘