UEFA chief praises UK PM Johnson and 'fan revolution'


Soccer Football - 45th Ordinary UEFA Congress - 2m2c Montreux Music & Convention Centre, Montreux, Switzerland - April 20, 2021 UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin during the 45th Ordinary UEFA Congress Richard Juilliart/UEFA/Handout via REUTERS

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has praised UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government for helping to force six English clubs to pull out of the breakaway Super League venture, saying they had taken the side of a fan revolt.

Twelve of Europe's top clubs announced on Sunday they were setting up a breakaway competition to rival UEFA's Champions League but the 'Big Six' English clubs pulled out on Tuesday after a wave of criticism, protests and political pressure.

Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur all signed up to the Super League before changing their minds after 48 hours.

Ceferin, who runs European soccer's governing body, said he had been in touch with Johnson and his government after the breakaway was announced.

"They responded excellently; I must say I was impressed by their effectiveness. They immediately said they were available to us, for anything, to release a very sharp statement. And that reaction from the British government has helped a lot," he told Slovenian television station POPTV in an interview.

On Tuesday, Johnson met with the Premier League and Football Association. Several newspapers reported he had told them he was ready to drop a “legislative bomb” to stop the breakaway.

The prime minister’s spokesman told the BBC measures under consideration included preventing foreign players of the clubs involved getting work visas - which they need after Brexit - and the withdrawal of police funding for match days.

Ceferin said Johnson had recognised the anger of football supporters. Fans had protested outside grounds including at matches involving Liverpool and Chelsea.

"I find it very responsible from the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to take a sharp stand on the side of the fans, not only because of the culture and love of football, but also because it ensures order in the country."

(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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