April Bedford Independent Column – If the Govt can stand up to a football monopoly why not other broken markets?

News that the six English clubs signed up to the European Super League have withdrawn after 48 hours of a virtually unanimous backlash from fans has been welcomed on all sides of Parliament.

The plans were hatched behind closed doors without consultation with fans or players, to form a super league from which teams can never be relegated and in which they are always guaranteed a place because of their wealth not necessarily their talent.

It’s a concept that erases the very essence of sport – competition.

The 12 founding members of the proposed new league, including the billionaire owners of six English football clubs, led to cries from Number 10 that they will do “whatever it takes” to stop the new tournament.

In the end, it would seem people power did more to put the kibosh on the greedy plans than anything the Government could.

For decades, fans have complained about the commercialisation of the sport. Their concerns about their clubs being owned by foreign billionaires or business owners with no interest in football have long been ignored.

Footballers earning annual salaries over £100 million and season tickets costing over a £1,000 for some Premiership clubs have alienated many from our nation’s favourite sport.

Many predicted that the greed so endemic in the game, would one day consume it.
The Government’s new fan-led review, which must still go ahead, will look at financing, governance, and the creation of an independent regulator.

Football governance has been broken for some time. The hedge fund owners and billionaires have taken football clubs out of the hands of their communities and treated teams as just another commodity to exploit.

They don’t care for the history of our football or the role it plays in towns and cities up and down our country.

Labour has repeatedly called for the reform of the governance and finances of football which is why we pledged in all four manifestos going back to 2010 to act. Other great footballing nations like Germany and France put laws in place to protect the fans from corporate takeover.

The Bundesliga clubs did not join the Super League because of the 50 plus 1 rule which ensures fans own a majority stake – a collaborative approach that extends to Germany’s ways of doing business.

I would like to see a system like this in England. It will be interesting to see how far the Johnson government really is prepared to use the state to intervene in broken markets.

The Government shouldn’t be allowed off the hook from bringing forward legislation to ensure that our football leagues have the power to act against the power of corporate greed.

Because if they really are prepared to stand up against a football monopoly then why not in other areas like press reform or in unfair working practices like when a high street retailer plunders their own company until there’s nothing left; to stop British Gas firing and rehiring their workers or when multinational companies evade paying tax?

For the sake of all supporters, players, clubs, and our cultural heritage, we must act now to prevent further attempts at breakaway leagues and save the “beautiful game”.