Gary Neville has rallied a group of former playing rivals turned broadcasting rivals to persuade the government to establish an independent regulatory body for English football in order to thwart any new attempts by elite clubs to develop a Super League.
Neville, along with fellow ex-England players Gary Lineker, Rio Ferdinand, Jamie Carragher, and Micah Richards, launched a legislative petition on Monday calling for an overhaul of the game’s governance. More than 20,000 individuals signed it in an hour, and 10,000 signatures are required for the petition to be considered for a legislative debate.
Six English clubs, including Neville’s previous club Manchester United, attempted last month to start a rival European league to the Champions League, with most teams assured membership rather than needing to qualify through domestic placings each year. It was brought down within 48 hours after a public outcry from fans, the government, and broadcasters, notably Neville on Comcast-owned Sky Sports.
“It was a direct threat to the integrity of the game, eroding the ideal of sporting merit and open competition,” the former players wrote in an open letter published on Monday.
“Without immediate and immediate intervention, the return of a European Super League will be a continual threat,” the letter continued, urging “government legislation to prevent any Premier League clubs from abandoning the country’s football pyramid.”
Lineker hosts BBC Premier League coverage and BT Sport’s Champions League coverage, for which Ferdinand also works as a pundit. Carragher and Richards appear on Sky alongside Neville.
The Premier League is opposed to the appointment of any regulatory authority, such as the UK’s communications authority Ofcom.
“Over the last 30 years, I would defend the Premier League’s function as a regulator of its clubs,” league chief executive Richard Masters said last week. “Clearly, we have had some issues over the previous 18 months, but every industry sector has. I don’t believe an independent regulator is necessary.”
Former British Sports Minister Tracey Crouch is now leading a fan-led review of football governance in the aftermath of the Super League’s demise and the Premier League’s so-called “Big Six” teams’ efforts last year to gain more domestic control in a scheme known as Project Big Picture.
“A regulator is being advocated by some, absolutely despised by others, and it will be part of the mix,” Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston told reporters on Saturday at Wembley Stadium. “We’ll see what Tracey comes up with in the recommendations,” she says.