‘Brexit Factor’ played key role in helping PM kick Super League into touch, UEFA insider claims
The ‘Brexit factor’ played a key role in helping Boris Johnson take swift action to kick plans for football’s controversial European Super League into touch, it was claimed last night.
Sources at UEFA – European football’s governing body – suggested Britain’s greater freedom of action had given the threats more force.
A UEFA insider told The Mail on Sunday: ‘It felt like there was a Brexit factor to the way the British Government reacted and the threat they posed to the English clubs.
PROTEST: Manchester United fans demonstrate against the club’s owners outside Old Trafford yesterday
‘They could act swiftly and take decisions almost immediately – and they carried more authority.’
However, there are also reports that Mr Johnson’s chief of staff tried to persuade the PM to stay out of the row.
Whitehall sources claim Dan Rosenfield sought to make sure the Prime Minister didn’t intervene in the controversy – even though the breakaway plan drew immediate widespread condemnation.
The allegation comes after it was revealed that Mr Rosenfield met Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward – whose club was one of the six elite English sides linked to the aborted project – in Downing Street four days before news of the league emerged last weekend.
The proposed Super League – which also involved Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, as well as Spanish and Italian clubs – fell apart last week amid a ferocious response from fans, players, officials and politicians across the political divide.
Protests continued yesterday, with angry Manchester United fans protesting at Old Trafford against the club’s US owners.
However, there are also reports that Mr Johnson’s chief of staff Dan Rosenfield (pictured together) tried to persuade the PM to stay out of the row
Mr Johnson won plaudits for swiftly denouncing proposals for the elite league and threatening to unleash a ‘legislative bomb’ – interpreted as a threat to introduce German-style ownership rules where fans own 51 per cent of clubs.
He also ordered a wide-ranging review. Last night, a UEFA source said the clubs involved ‘were genuinely worried’ the Government would start tightening up on work permits.
‘They could impose taxes, change competition law, and having seen the Brexit negotiations, they knew that Johnson was capable of doing previously unthinkable things like that to court popularity,’ said the source.
No 10 sources have confirmed that Mr Johnson ‘briefly’ met Mr Woodward during a visit to No 10 earlier this month.
But officials have insisted that Mr Woodward, who was there for a meeting with Mr Rosenfield, did not discuss the Super League and stress that the PM learned of the plans last Sunday ‘like everyone else’.
Mr Johnson led criticism of the plans that same evening, saying they would ‘strike at the heart of the domestic game’.
However, claims that Mr Rosenfield tried to stop Mr Johnson from publicly weighing in will raise fresh questions over the discussions. One insider said last night: ‘Dan thought the PM should just stay out of it.’
Labour has called for the minutes of the meeting to be revealed.
A No 10 source denied Mr Rosenfield had asked the PM to stay out of the affair.