King Charles proposes bill that takes aim at European Super League

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Over two fraught days in April 2021, a newly formed “Super League” threatened to change the face of European soccer by creating an elite tournament that would protect 15 top clubs from relegation.

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It quickly collapsed, but a U.K. government bill announced by King Charles on Tuesday proposes powers to block English teams from attempting to join a breakaway league in the future.

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In a document explaining the new Football Governance Bill, the government said the European Super League was “fundamentally uncompetitive” and “threatened to undermine the footballing pyramid against the wishes of fans.”

“Fans will no longer face the prospect of seeing their clubs sign up to ill-thought out proposals such as the European Super League,” the document said.

Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham were among 12 rebel clubs from England, Spain and Italy that planned to be part of the breakaway league. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan were also part of the proposed 20-team league.

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It would have effectively replaced the Champions League — Europe’s elite club tournament — and had the potential to impact domestic leagues given the guaranteed entry of teams regardless of their success in their national competitions.

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The lack of relegation was fundamentally at odds with European soccer, which, unlike elite U.S. sports has the risk and reward of moving up or down divisions based on performance.

The British government had threatened legislation to block it, and fans across Europe objected — even ignoring COVID-related social gathering restrictions to protest outside stadiums.

Soccer executives hastily backed down. Since then, clubs in England’s top flight, in particular, have sought to build bridges with fans and vocalized their commitment to the Premier League.

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But the idea of a revived Super League has not gone away, with A22 Sports Management — the company that worked with the teams on the breakaway — speaking of its ongoing plan to revolutionize the sport.

Holdouts Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus went to the European Court of Justice in their challenge to the alleged monopoly control they say Champions League organizer UEFA has over international competitions.

Should any English teams wish to get on board — even though they had agreed in 2021 not to seek again to play in an unauthorized competition — they could be barred entry under the U.K. bill, which needs Parliament’s approval.

The government said the bill would “safeguard the future of football clubs for the benefit of communities and fans.”

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It also proposes to toughen owners’ and directors’ tests to “protect fans from irresponsible owners.”

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“We have seen growing concerns about financial mismanagement in football, and questions about illicit finance,” the document said.

The bill is intended to protect the sustainability of clubs, with the government raising concerns about the levels of borrowing in the sport.

“Across the Premier League and Championship combined, net debt increased to £4.4 billion ($5.4 billion) in 2022,” the document said. “This shows that many clubs across the pyramid are financially vulnerable. The unique importance of football clubs to their fans and local communities means the social costs of financial failures would be significant.”

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