FA exploring all options to avoid repeat of European Super League threat

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Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham has warned “nothing is off the table” as the governing body looks to guard against a repeat of the European Super League threat.

English football is set for a fan-led review, under the direction of former sports minister Tracey Crouch, following the fall-out from the widely-criticised breakaway plans.

In a direct challenge to UEFA’s Champions League set-up, 12 of Europe’s leading clubs – including the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ – announced late last Sunday night they had signed up to compete in the Super League.

Brighton and Hove Albion players wearing shirts opposing the proposed European Super League, before during the Premier League match at Stamford Bridge
There had been opposition on and off the pitch to the controversial Super League proposals (Mike Hewitt/PA)

Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham all swiftly confirmed they would not be moving ahead with the proposals, which would have seen ‘founder members’ exempt from relegation.

Bullingham is determined there must be no repeat of the chain of events, which caused an uproar throughout the game.

“Our primary focus now is working to ensure that this can never happen again,” Bullingham said.

“We are exploring all options to prevent that, including legislation and changes to our rulebook, and nothing is off the table.”

Newcastle head coach Steve Bruce, whose side tackle Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday, felt the six Premier League clubs had “taken a slapping” over the saga.

Bruce also warned the football authorities would have to remain on their guard to ensure the proposal is not resurrected in the future.

“We’ve got to guard against it because this thing must have been rumbling on for years,” he said.

“I’ll let the authorities and the Premier League and all the rest of it deal with that, more intelligent people than I am, but they have to guard against it, that’s for sure.”

Tottenham Hotspur fans stage a protest against the European Super League outside the club's stadium
Tottenham fans staged a protest against the European Super League outside their stadium (Adam Davy/PA)

Bielsa, whose side play Manchester United on Sunday, has been highly critical of the doomed breakaway plans, but feels the current system “is not up to standard”.

He said: “I don’t think that the path for a solution is for these clubs to be punished, but to convince what is best and to come up with rules of acceptance in general and make sure these rules are adhered to.

“When a rule is broken this forces a sanction (and this) means that the process before that was not efficient.”

West Ham are currently above Spurs, Liverpool and Arsenal as they chase a top-four finish along with the likes of Leicester.

Hammers boss David Moyes felt the breakaway league went against the opportunity to fix things that were wrong with the game during the coronavirus pandemic.

“There’s a lot of corrections that need to be put right in football,” the former Everton and Manchester United manager said.

“I thought if ever there was going to be a time where we could fix football, it was during the pandemic.

“But it looks like we’ve done the opposite, or certain people have tried to do the opposite.

“I hope we get back to the basis that it’s a sport for the people and not just certain ones.”

The furore over the Super League has overshadowed UEFA’s decision to approve changes to the format of the Champions League from 2024.

The competition is to be increased from 32 to 36 teams with a revamped group stage that will see all teams play at least 10 fixtures – a move which has been criticised by both Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.

Earlier on Friday, the Super League’s financial backer JP Morgan accepted it “misjudged” how fans would react to the breakaway competition.

The American investment bank said on Monday it had committed 3.25 billion euros (just over £2.8bn) as start-up capital for the league, which if it had happened would also have devalued Europe’s top domestic leagues.

JP Morgan released a short statement on Friday morning which read: “We clearly misjudged how this deal would be viewed by the wider football community and how it might impact them in the future. We will learn from this.”

Having announced their intention to break away, the 12 teams – which also included Spanish sides Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid as well as Italian trio Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan – resigned from the European Club Association (ECA).

However, a tweet from the ECA on Friday appeared to offer hope of returning to the fold, saying it wanted to “move past the events of this week”, adding “clubs can only succeed both on & off the pitch if we work hand in hand”.

The ECA has traditionally been perceived as an organisation which lobbies UEFA chiefly in the interests of Europe’s elite clubs.

Any failure of the group labelled “the dirty dozen” by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin on Monday to gain re-entry to the ECA could weaken their ability to influence matters at continental level.

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