Legislate to block English clubs joining the ‘European super league’, Keir Starmer has told the government amid the fury sparked by proposals for the new elite football body. ”I’m really detecting now a willingness among politicians to legislate if that is necessary,” he said. “It’s not an area where you’d expect legislation, but the strength of feeling is such that if the government is prepared to bring forward legislation, we would certainly look at it and support it.” In an interview with The Independent, he took aim at the Premier League, Uefa, and the government for the “slippery slope” football has been on. The Labour leader argued that the government and football authorities have failed the sport and mooted a restructuring of club ownership: “It might have to be [prising control], or at least limiting the extent of the ownership stake, and also dealing with the speculation element of it,” he remarked, highlighting the recent difficulties of Wigan Athletic.
Ministers have left open the possibility of legislating. Gavin Williamson said this morning: “The government reserves its position to take any action that’s required, including the need to take legislation, the need to take sanctions in order to ensure we protect football interests in this country.” Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told parliament on Monday that measures being considered include a windfall tax on clubs participating, fewer work permits, reduced help with policing on match days and German-style fan-majority ownership. A review of football governance has been announced, and Boris Johnson is holding an emergency roundtable meeting with FA and Premier League officials and fan representatives today.
Labour has this morning asked the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate whether the plans for the league would fall foul of laws to uphold fairness. In the letter, Alison McGovern also asked the regulator whether it will “assist parliament in drafting legislation that will make football more accountable to its supporters”. “Proposals for a breakaway league are nothing short of an attempt to stitch up competition for a few elite clubs at the top,” the shadow minister for sport said. “The government must get on with its fan-led review and ensure that football is given back to the people who built it.” Labour has launched a petition to stop the formation of the league.
Starmer and Johnson were both out on the campaign trail yesterday. In Gloucestershire, the PM appeared unable to name the West of England metro mayor – who is a Conservative. After the Tory incumbent was named for him, Johnson agreed the May elections in areas with various contests taking place on the same day are “confusing”. Meanwhile, Starmer was confronted by a lockdown-skeptic pub landlord. “You have failed to be the opposition. You have failed to ask whether lockdown was functioning,” landlord Rod Humphris said. Starmer replied by telling the man his wife works in the NHS, adding: “I really don’t need lectures from you about this pandemic.” Humphris was then seen angrily telling Starmer to “get out of my pub” while being restrained by security.
Elsewhere, the government rejected Labour’s ‘Amazon amendment’ to the finance bill last night. The amendment, which was voted down by 365 votes to 260, would have stopped the largest tech giants from using the ‘super deduction’, as well as other big firms in the UK that do not support workers’ rights and the living wage. “The government should be improving the lives of thousands of workers who have helped so many people with deliveries throughout the pandemic, not giving a huge tax break to their bosses,” Labour’s James Murray told MPs. And if you missed my live event with Welsh Labour MS John Griffiths last night, you can watch it here. In the wide-ranging interview, we covered the Senedd elections, support for Welsh independence, the handling of the pandemic and, of course, football. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.