Gary Neville: Government must stop Big Six's attempted murder of English football

Neville warns Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City, Man United and Tottenham owners will 'regroup' to launch another attempted breakaway after failed European Super League bid; Leeds chief executive hails Neville for stopping ESL and attacks Big Six clubs

4:59
Following the collapse of the European Super League, Gary Neville calls for the government to protect the key elements of English football with legislation

Gary Neville has urged government intervention to prevent the 'Big Six' repeating what he has described as 'the attempted murder of English football' following the failed European Super League breakaway.

Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham and Arsenal all signed up to join the league before backing out due to the overwhelming weight of opposition to the plans.

But Neville has warned that a similar breakaway attempt is inevitable and only government legislation will be certain of preventing its success.

"The scary thing is that these people are regrouping back at base," Neville warned. "They are not going away.

"There has to be legislation passed through government. The government are the only people who can stop this.

"It's such an interesting system in this country that 20 or 30 years ago we put the power of English football into the hands of the owners of the biggest clubs. That's what we did but we are going to have to take it off them. And the only people who can do that are government and it has to happen now - more than ever.

"This lot need to be stopped. The ultimate long game is to get the owners out of the clubs. There's no doubt about that.

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"But in the short-term there has to be some protection put in place to ensure that they can't go and do what they want with football. Because they want to take it away. They want to maximise their revenue at the expense of football fans and fair and equal competition. That is something that can't happen.

A plane flies over the ground with a banner aimed at the Manchester United owners before the Premier League match away to Leeds United. 0:40
Manchester United fans' anti-Glazer banner flies over Elland Road as protests against the club's owners continue

"Last week, and it was severe language, l called it an attempted murder of English football.

"And 'sorry' doesn't wash. It has gone past sorry because it is twice that they have done it. If you were sorry the first time with 'Big Picture' you wouldn't have brought this back. Real Madrid's Perez and Laporte at Barcelona, from two of the world biggest clubs, have told us 'we are coming back'. This lot are not going away, but they need to be stopped."

Leeds CEO blasts Premier League's Big Six and warns 'the war' hasn't been won

Neville was speaking ahead of Manchester United's game at Leeds United.

In his programme notes for the fixture, Leeds chief executive Angus Kinnear credited Neville's role in preventing the breakaway before launching a sustained and withering attack on the six clubs involved.

"The fact that the whole Leeds fanbase has been united by the brilliantly impassioned words of Gary Neville illustrates how desperate the plight of European football became this week," wrote Kinnear.

"A fortnight ago we left the Etihad with an instinct that Manchester City didn't take well to being humbled by lowly Leeds United, but we could never have predicted that it would be the catalyst for them creating their own league where they would never have to be inconvenienced with the spectre of on-pitch failure again.

"The audacity of a resurgent Leeds United, an ambitious Aston Villa, a brilliantly managed Leicester City, a Champions League-bound West Ham United and an Everton with bold stadium plans have clearly overwhelmed the self-proclaimed "big six". The timing of their plan combined with the turmoil of a global pandemic was not coincidental it was deeply cynical, and the clandestine plotting of fellow Premier League shareholders made it all the more seditious.

"Whether the collective intent was a genuine move to breakaway or the act of playground bullies seeking negotiating leverage at European and domestic level by threatening to take their ball home is irrelevant. The result was a betrayal of every true football supporter. However, this astonishing ingordigiouness [extreme greed] has been the unexpected catalyst of creating a furious unity across nations, leagues, players, owners and fans.

"I was proud to see Leeds United and Liverpool supporters stand shoulder to shoulder in protest before a game which once again showed we are already in a Super League and making it all the more bizarre that, in the world envisioned Liverpool's ownership, the same fixture would have been a meaningless dead rubber.

"It was a disgrace that managers and players were left to defend the indefensible in front of the media while their owners cowered at home. Full credit to Leeds' own James Milner for being the first of many players to speak out and to the supporters clubs and the trusts of the clubs involved who voiced their objections so passionately and unequivocally. These clubs are great institutions that we admire and have long aspired to compete against. The 14 "other" Premier League clubs want and need their brilliant teams and wonderful fans in our league but these teams and supporters deserve custodians who share the belief in the football pyramid and the abhorrence of the prospect of pulling up the drawbridge to create a sporting cartel. The Premier League and European qualification has never been a closed shop. It has had 49 members, 29 of which have played in Europe and 37 of which have played in League One, proving the dreams of every football fan in the country have the chance to be realised.

"Hopefully the speed in which the initiative was quashed has helped everyone in the game to appreciate that while there will always be differing opinions on the validity of the pursuit of wealth within football, we are unified in our belief that this can never be done at the expense of the spirit of competition in sport, victory is nothing without the spectre of defeat.

"However, it would be naive to believe that the threat has been extinguished forever and we still face European qualification that will be partially based on historical performance as opposed to in season merit and a Premier League where some shareholders still want to abolish the enshrined democratic principle of "one club, one vote". This week's battle against elitism may have been won but the war needs to be relentlessly and vigorously fought."

In full: Gary Neville's reflections on the failed ESL project and why the government must step in

"It was despicable.

"The scary thing is that these people are regrouping back at base. They are not going away.

"This was their second attempt in the last eight months. 'Big Picture' was an attempt to change the '14 and 6' voting model. That is the sacrosanct thing in this country that holds it together. They tried to change that with 'Big Picture'. They have now come back with a second proposal. They will come back with a third.

"They have to be stopped for good.

"They have obviously animated Number 10 Downing Street, they have obviously animated the politicians, the royal family and every single football fan in this country. I think they will now have their work cut out because they have an army against them.

"There has to be legislation passed through government. The government are the only people who can stop this - and that's what every Premier League club fears, even the 14. But that is what l have been pushing for over the 12 months with another group for independent regulation to protect the key elements of English football. That's not [against] anybody else running English football, that's to make sure there are checks in place (to prevent) clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, City, Tottenham and Chelsea doing it again.

"They run English football.

"It's such an interesting system in this country that 20 or 30 years ago we put the power of English football into the hands of the owners of the biggest clubs. That's what we did but we are going to have to take it off them. And the only people who can do that are government and it has to happen now - more than ever.

"This lot need to be stopped.

3:15
A group of Manchester United fans gathered with banners outside the club's training ground in protest against the Glazer ownership

"The ultimate long game is to get the owners out of the clubs. There's no doubt about that. But in the short-term there has to be some protection put in place to ensure that they can't go and do what they want with football. Because they want to take it away. They want to maximise their revenue at the expense of football fans and fair and equal competition. That is something that can't happen.

"Last week, and it was severe language, l called it an attempted murder of English football.

"And 'sorry' doesn't wash. It has gone past sorry because it is twice that they have done it. If you were sorry the first time with 'Big Picture' you wouldn't have brought this back. Real Madrid's Perez and Laporte at Barcelona, from two of the world's biggest clubs, have told us 'we are coming back'. This lot are not going away, but they need to be stopped."

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