The government has promised to do “whatever it takes” to stop six English football clubs breaking away from mainstream competition for form a so-called European “super league”.
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden condemned the clubs as “tone deaf” and said he would not stand by and “watch football be cravenly stripped” of what the fans love about it.
He said the government would give “full backing” to the Premier League and other football bodies, which are considering sanctions to stop the clubs breaking away.
But he made clear: “If they can’t act we will.
“We will put everything on the table to prevent this from happening.
“We are examining every option, from governance to competition law and mechanisms that allow football to take place.”
He added: “I want to reassure this House of a very robust response.
“We will do whatever it takes to protect our national game.”
Dowden also said he was “formally triggering” a fans-led review of football promised by the Tories in the party’s 2019 election manifesto, which will be led by former sport minister Tracey Crouch.
He also hinted that the government could change the law to allow the football authorities to take strong action, and that a windfall tax on the clubs involved was under consideration.
It came after Conservative Damian Collins warned that under existing powers for the Premier League and FA “there’s nothing that can be done to stop these six clubs joining the ‘super league’”.
He went on: “Is the government prepared to consider amendments to the law in order to give those bodies the powers they need – in particular to prevent clubs joining competitions that have not been sanctioned by either the FA or Uefa?”
Dowden replied: “On competition law, we’re already engaging with Beis (department for business, energy and industrial strategy) in terms of our response to it. We rule out absolutely nothing.
“I know from my conversations with the Premier League and with Uefa they’re already proposing to take some pretty draconian steps to stop this, but we stand ready and we will not allow anything to stop us from doing this in terms of timing, we’ll get on with it as soon as we need to.”
The decision of Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs to create a “closed shop” European competition without promotion or relegation has been met with a fierce backlash from fans, players, politicians and the football authorities.
Critics believe it would fundamentally distort competition in Europe for the benefit of the richest few clubs.
Among the sanctions under consideration by the football bodies are kicking the teams out of the Premier League and banning their players from playing for international teams.
Downing Street earlier said a “range of options” were being considered by the government in response, with a German-style system of fan ownership of clubs and clawing back coronavirus support loans included as possibilities.
The European Super League plans also involve Spanish sides Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona and Italian clubs AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan.
German giants Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, as well as French champions Paris St Germain have refused to join the league.
The proposal has support from investment bank JP Morgan, which will provide around £4.3bn in debt financing for the competition.
Shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens called this “a watershed moment for our national game” and said Dowden’s statement was “short on detail and the urgency that this situation merits”.
The Labour frontbencher went on: “Football governance is broken, football finance is broken, and football fans whichever club we support, are ignored.
“The hedge-fund owners and billionaires who treat football clubs like any other of their commodities have no care for history of our football, for the role it plays in villages, towns and cities up and down our country and especially for the fans who are the beating heart of it.
“They should understand their role as custodians rather than cartel chiefs.The future of our national game and all our clubs depend on it.”