There has been widespread condemnation from across the West Midlands after plans were announced for a breakaway European football Super League.
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street called it “absolutely appalling” while Aston Villa’s chief executive Christian Purslow said the concept was “grotesque”.
Announced late last night, the plan could see six English clubs join three each from Spain and Italy to create a 12-strong European league, with matches played midweek and no relegation from it.
The 12 clubs would continue to play in their own domestic leagues, assuming authorities did not kick them out as many pundits have suggested they should if the project goes ahead.
The proposals have sparked fear among other clubs across the football pyramid that they would be left behind in financial terms.
The 12 teams which have declared their intention to create the league are Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham from the Premier League alongside Spain’s Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid and AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus in Italy.
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Mr Street said he had contacted football clubs across the West Midlands, none of which are involved in the Super League, and pledged to stand with them to fight the plans.
He said: “Proposals for a European Super League are absolutely appalling and we must stand together to stop them.
“Creating a closed competition that serves only the wealthiest clubs goes against the very essence of fair play in sport and shuts the door on all other clubs aspiring to be part of the game’s elite.
“It is blindingly obvious that a super league will have a serious detrimental impact on the English football pyramid and those Premier League clubs outside the so-called ‘big six’.”
Aston Villa chief Christian Purslow told the BBC the scheme was designed to take away the uncertainty of relegation and give predictability to their businesses.
“If they’re badly managed or have a poor year, they’re still in the premier tournament,” he said.
“Does that sound like sport or football to you? To me it sounds like a grotesque concept. It would be extraordinarily difficult for this to fly if the core football authorities of Fifa, Uefa and Premier League were so adamantly against it.”
Other political figures from across the region have condemned the plans.
Julian Knight, Conservative MP for Solihull and chairman of the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, called it “a dark day for football”.
His committee will meet to discuss how to respond to the proposals.
Mr Knight added: “Though this idea was mooted several months ago, what’s shocking is the speed at which this breakaway league has been announced.
“What’s needed is a fan-led review of football with real teeth and here we have more evidence to strengthen the case for it.”
Labour MP for Edgbaston Preet Gill added: “In the West Midlands, we have fantastic clubs that have long and successful histories like Aston Villa, Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion, among many others.
“The Super League proposals have been designed by a small elite and completely excludes all of them from competition.
“Most importantly, this has been done without any support or involvement from fans. We’ve had a year now of empty stadiums. What that’s shown us is how important fans are to the sport.
“This approach, which has been taken and fully excludes them from any input or say into how the league should be run and the entry points, is a detriment to the game and is doomed to fail.”
Danny Pugh, first team coach at League Two team Port Vale, said: “From what I have read, it is something I am against. I don’t see the benefit of it.
“The difference with the Super League is it sounds like it is a closed league. You can’t be promoted or relegated, by all accounts, so it is a different beast altogether.
“But…if the powers that be at the very top of the game want it to happen then it is something that may come into play.”