The Daily Telegraph: We don't need another football inquiry. We need to stop this outrageous Super League in its tracks

The Daily Telegraph: We don't need another football inquiry. We need to stop this outrageous Super League in its tracks

Article written for the Daily Telegraph, published 19 April 2021

Professional football in England has always been about fair and open competition. Teams strive to be the best, with promotion and relegation between divisions marking their successes and failures. While some are more often than not at the top of the pile, overall 49 different clubs have played in the Premier League since it launched in 1992, and during that time we've seen Leicester City crowned as winners, and Wigan Athletic take home the FA Cup. The romance of football as well as its highly competitive nature, with teams sometimes defeating the odds to overcome superior opponents, is what has made the game in this country a success, watched and admired around the world.

The proposed European Super League cuts across all of this, by incorporating the American franchise system, which in this case will guarantee 15 clubs a permanent place in the football world's most valuable club competition. This golden ticket will make those clubs even richer overnight and the power and wealth of this global game will be concentrated even more into the hands of a few club owners.

In response to these proposals we've heard calls for points to be deducted from the teams seeking to join the league, or even for them to be relegated from the Premier League and banned from UEFA competitions. However, for clubs like Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City, they know that they will make far more out of the Super League than they will ever lose from domestic penalties being imposed on them. This is why, for those that are listed on the stock market, their share price has gone up following the announcement , despite the condemnation it has received from the football world.

For too long we have allowed football in this country to be dominated by the interests of the chairs of the clubs. The leagues are run by their collective decisions and the FA, despite being the national governing body, has little or no real power to intervene. As a result, we regularly see the financial failure of clubs spending more than they can afford, and speculative proposals from others seeking to change the rules and structures of the competitions to suit them.

This is now an urgent situation and there is no time for further reviews and reports; we've already had a lot of these, and what needs to be done is clear. It's time we created a football regulator with the powers in law to protect the sustainability of clubs and the integrity of competitions. In this case, that could include the power for the FA to prevent clubs from taking part in unsanctioned competitions, and establishing a legal framework for sporting principles, like progression in competitions being based on merit.

We should also give this regulator the power to exercise a discretionary test as to whether the owner and director of a club is considered to be a fit and proper person, just as our media regulator Ofcom has that power over the organisations that hold broadcasting licenses.

It's noteworthy that German clubs have opted out of the Super League. In that country, clubs are majority owned by their fans, who would have the power to veto such proposals. In England supporters' trusts and groups can only look on powerless and in despair.

It's also time for major sports brands, sponsors and broadcasters to state publicly whether or not they will work with and support the Super League financially.

If we want to protect the structure of football in this country, where playing at the highest levels is based on open qualification, rather than golden handcuffs, we need to act now. Our objective should be to stop this happening, rather than seeking to punish those who take part. The more that elite club football becomes a closed shop, the further it will become removed from the fans, community clubs and grassroots teams that are essential to the lifeblood of the game.

Yes, there will be promises made about how the Super League will support these interests, but we will always be dependent on their goodwill, when asking for a few more crumbs from the table. Our current structures are not perfect, but the commercial success of the Premier League has brought more money into English football at all levels. The Super League will challenge that, and could see the game at all levels below it relatively poorer as a result.

Copyright 2021 Damian Collins. All rights reserved

Promoted by Stephen James for and on behalf of Damian Collins, both of Folkestone & Hythe Conservative Association both at 4 West Cliff Gardens, Folkestone, Kent CT20 1SP


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