Furious Oliver Dowden lashes out at ‘Big Six’ football clubs – radical overhaul hinted

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Speaking in the Commons Mr Dowden said he was “appalled” by the plot announced last night by some of England’s biggest football clubs to form their own league. Threatening a radical overhaul to clip to the power of football owners, the minister hinted football fans could be given a majority stake in the ownership of clubs.

Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City have announced they have signed up to the plan, joining teams from Italy and Spain.

Mr Dowden said he had held meetings with the Premier League, the Football Association (FA) and the president of UEFA today and vowed the Government’s full support in any measures they take in order to try and block the proposal.

He added if they were unable to take action ministers would step in to scupper the clubs’ plans.

“Be in no doubt, if they can’t act, we will. We will put everything on the table to prevent this from happening,” Mr Dowden told MPs.

“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.

“We will do whatever it takes to protect our national game.”

The breakaway league, which would be played alongside domestic competitions, has been criticised for cutting out smaller clubs financially and for blocking them from taking part in the new format.

The Culture Secretary said the Government could take action to copy the German model of football, in which commercial investors cannot hold more than 49 percent of the shares of a club.

No German clubs have agreed to join the breakaway league which has been roundly condemned in the UK by fans, the football authorities and politicians alike.

“We’ve examined the German model very closely,” he said.

“It’s very interesting to note that German teams are not participating in this, that, makes the case rather for the fan-led review looking at the German model.”

Mr Dowden announced the launch of a “fan-led review of football” to give supporters a greater voice on the future of the game.

He said: “Over the past few months I’ve been meeting with fans and representative organisations to develop our proposals for a fan-led review.

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“I’d always been clear that I didn’t want to launch this until football had returned to normal following the pandemic.

“Sadly these clubs have made it clear that I have no choice, they have decided to put money before fans, so today I have been left with no choice but to formally trigger the launch of our fan-led review of football.”

Promising a “very robust response” to the breakaway effort, Mr Dowden said fans’ loyalty has been “abused by a small number of individuals who wield an incredible amount of power and influence”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also criticised the proposals from the clubs to form their own league.

Mr Johnson said the breakaway plans were not “good news for fans” or for UK football.

“I don’t like the look of these proposals,” he said on a campaign visit to Gloucestershire.

He said the teams are more than just “great global brands”, adding: “They’re also clubs that have originated historically from their towns, from their cities, from their local communities. They should have a link with those fans, and with the fan base in their community.

“So it is very, very important that that continues to be the case.”

Labour has also criticised the plans, with Sir Keir Starmer telling the clubs involved to “rethink immediately”.

Shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens said Labour backed the fans-led review but the survey should have been carried out earlier.

She said it was “time for the Government to get off the subs bench and show some leadership on the pitch because we need reform of football”.

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