Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called for parliament to intervene to prevent Manchester United and 11 other rebel clubs from forming a European Super League.
The ESL was announced on Sunday and has sent shock waves across the football world, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prince William both already speaking out to condemn the move.
But in an interview with The Independent, Sir Keir has vowed to go further and is even talking about the enforcement of an existing law which could mean the compulsory purchase of United – the government could have the power to buy the club whether the shareholders want to sell it or not.
‘My first stance is that it’s really for the Premier League and Uefa to try and sort this out with the clubs,’ Sir Keir said.
‘But, if not, I’m really detecting now a willingness among politicians to legislate if that is necessary. 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.
‘I think we’ve been on a slippery slope. I’m afraid the Premier League, Uefa, and the government have to take some responsibility for that.
‘It needs to be a watershed moment in the positive sense, that fans and others rise up against it to stop it.
The Independent claims that other clubs have broached the idea of ‘using existing legal mechanisms to force compulsory purchases of the [six rebel] clubs, since the plan for a super league could be seen as not being in the best interests of British business.’ And on the subject of a forced change in ownership, the Labour leader was clear:
‘I think it might have to be, or at least limiting the extent of the ownership stake, and also dealing with the speculation element of it.
‘I would be open to different models, and would look at any models that the government puts forward but if it has to be legislation then it has to be legislation.
‘The government is talking a good game, it has the power to bring forward legislation, and it now knows the other parties would almost certainly support it so the government has within its power to do something.’
The politician’s words are encouraging for those who oppose the new Super League and indeed for Manchester United fans who for years have campaigned for ownership of their club to be wrested away from the Glazer family. It seems incredible to think that that might now happen through an act of parliament.