In an open letter signed by 22 former footballers, prominent members of the media and fan representatives, the group say it is “time to act” and call for the public to sign a UK government petition.
The letter says the signees were “appalled” by the failed European Super League, which sought to “destroy the concept of sporting merit and open competition”.
“Now we must make sure this never happens again,” it reads. “Without swift and direct intervention, the return of a European Super League will be a constant threat.”
Neville led the way in condemning the Super League when plans emerged last month for a new breakaway competition which would have ringfenced power and money for a select few founding clubs and dealt a damaging blow to existing European and domestic competitions.
A fierce backlash among fans, media and government coupled with a disastrous PR strategy led to the Super League’s quick collapse, with the English ‘big six’ quickly backtracking and denouncing the concept, and their chastened owners forced to issue grovelling apologies to the supporters they left in the dark.
However, there remains fear that the Super League’s shambolic launch is unlikely to put off the wealthy owners of football’s biggest clubs – particularly American owners at clubs like Manchester United and Arsenal who seem to care little for the game itself and are determined to remove financially unstable concepts like relegation and missing out on the Champions League, integral elements of football’s competitive pyramid which are alien to most US sports.
The government is currently undertaking a fan-led review into football, and the letter and petition will increase pressure for the establishment of an independent regulator to help protect and preserve the game.
Since its founding in 1992, the Premier League has essentially been self-governed by its member clubs, working alongside the Football Association and the English Football League, although the various bodies have not always seen eye to eye, notably so in discussions over financial aid during the pandemic last year.
As well as Neville and Lineker, the letter is signed by fellow pundits and former players Jamie Carragher, Rio Ferdinand, Jamie Redknapp, Micah Richards and Jan Aage Fjortoft.
Journalists include the Mirror’s chief football writer John Cross, the Times’ chief football writer Henry Winter, the Daily Mail’s chief sports writer Oliver Holt, and Sky Sports’ broadcaster Laura Woods.
Fan representatives feature Chris Pajak of Liverpool channel Redmen TV, Arsenal Fan TV’s Robbie Lyle, and Andy Mitten, the editor of Manchester United fanzine United We Stand.
Open letter in full
As football fans, we were appalled by the attempt to set up a European Super League.
It was a direct threat to the integrity of the game; destroying the concept of sporting merit and open competition.
Supporters came together with one voice to oppose the cynical power-grab by a group of wealthy owners. The furious protests were heard and the breakaway fell apart.
Now we must make sure this never happens again. Without swift and direct intervention, the return of a European Super League will be a constant threat.
We welcome the fan-led Government review of the game and hope it leads to lasting change on an array of important concerns; including co-ordinated strategies to deal with racism, supporters’ representation within clubs, LGBTQ issues, ticket costs and the distribution of income. All of those aims can be realised if we take decisive action now.
It is time to act. We support:
Government legislation to block any Premier League clubs attempting to abandon the country’s football pyramid.
The appointment of an Independent Football Regulator.
This regulatory body would have a duty to represent the interests of supporters, protect against bad practices, adjudicate as the overarching body on matters involving the FA, Premier League and EFL and, generally, seek to prioritise the wider good of the game, rather than allow clubs to act solely in their own self-interests.
We, the undersigned, have a voice in the media.
We want your voices to join with ours.
Your voices are more important.
Say ‘No’ to a European Super League.
Say ‘Yes’, to changing the game for the better.