UK to review club governance in football

Germany's majority-fan ownership model a good idea, says culture secretary

The British government has vowed to look at football governance in the aftermath of the aborted European Super League (ESL).

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden, who oversees sports, said yesterday the authorities would press on with a long-delayed review to examine the future of Britain's national game, with top clubs being owned by foreign entities.

The issue of foreign ownership cropped up when the English Premier League's Big Six clubs joined the breakaway ESL, which was announced on Sunday. But all six hastily retreated yesterday morning (Singapore time), triggering its collapse.

Dowden said on Sky Sports that they "will not have our national game taken away from us for profit".

He called the German model of majority-fan ownership at clubs a "good idea" in principle, but stressed he did not want to pre-empt the review's findings and still welcomed foreign investment.

"The German clubs didn't participate in this proposal," Dowden told LBC radio. "One of the points that was made to me by fans when the prime minister and I met with them was the fact that there was that financial stake. I think we should look at it.

"International investment in football has been a good thing. It has increased the quality of the game and the players...

"But I do think it is right that we look at how fans can have a stake in the game."

The British government's resistance now contrasts with Prime Minister Boris Johnson's relaxed approach last year, when he was in private contact via WhatsApp with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over a bid by Saudi Arabia to take over Newcastle United.

"The government were quite happy to usher the fox into the chicken coop then. Now they're getting irate that the foxes might kill the chickens with the European Super League," Nicholas McGeehan, an expert on the politics of football, told AFP.

"The test for Boris' commitment is, is he really going to open up a debate about governance and ownership? It would go against some of their core constituencies," he said.

Johnson, meanwhile, called the Big Six's withdrawal from the ESL the "right result".

But they could still face consequences for joining it.

Premier League Rule L9 - which says any member of an EPL club needs prior written approval by the board to enter a new competition - has potentially been broken by the six.

Sky Sports reported that the other 14 clubs are divided on punishments for the Big Six.

An executive at an EPL club told Sky Sports that any sanction imposed on the Big Six, such as points deductions or fines would hurt the players, managers and fans, who were not involved in the move to join the breakaway league.

But a senior club official felt there was a strong need to set a precedent to act as a deterrent to future rebels as many football figures believe the idea of a breakaway league will crop up again in future.

"Unless we learn lessons quickly, we will see this again. It's not a new idea," said West Bromwich Albion manager Sam Allardyce.

"Bigger boys have tried to get bigger pot for many years."

While many lay the blame at club owners, Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman took aim at the authorities, saying that reforms, including fewer games, are needed.

"Everyone's talking about the Super League and the Champions League, but Uefa aren't paying any attention to the players about the number of games," he said. "The only thing they care about is money."

"In La Liga, it's the same. Look at the scheduling. Tomorrow we play at 10pm - we need to protect the players." he added, referring to their game against Getafe at 4am tomorrow (Singapore time) - AFP, REUTERS