ESL plans ‘not discussed’ with Woodward

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April 27, 2021
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    Supporters protest against Manchester United's owners outside Old TraffordSupporters protested against Manchester United's owners outside Old Trafford at the weekend

    European Super League plans "were not discussed" when Manchester United's Ed Woodward attended a meeting at No 10, according to Downing Street.

    United's executive vice-chairman met Dan Rosenfield, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's chief of staff, on 14 April.

    Four days later, it was announced that six Premier League teams had signed up for the ESL.

    The Sunday Times reportedexternal-link that the plans were discussed in the Downing Street meeting.

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    All six Premier league sides – United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham – withdrew from the plans on Tuesday, 20 April, after widespread criticism and protests. The prime minister was among those who criticised the plans publicly.

    The prime minister's official spokesman told reporters on Monday that, while chief of staff Rosenfield and Woodward did meet at Downing Street, the European competition proposal was "not discussed".

    During the visit, Woodward was also introduced briefly to the prime minister.

    Asked about Johnson's conversation with Woodward, who will leave United at the end of 2021, the prime minister's official spokesman said: "There was a very brief introduction to Ed Woodward. I think they crossed paths.

    "But the European Super League was not discussed."

    Pressed on whether Rosenfield told Woodward the government would not oppose the new venture, the spokesman said: "No, that's not correct.

    "The meeting was to discuss the safe return of fans and Covid certification as part of the events pilot work."

    Speaking in the House of Commons, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said that he understood that the conversation at Downing Street "related to the broader opening up of sporting events and what the necessary social distancing and other measures might be in order for us to go back to enjoying football measures".

    Before the No 10 briefing, Labour's Jo Stevens said Johnson needed to explain exactly what had transpired during Woodward's visit.

    The shadow culture secretary said: "The public has a right to know what exactly was promised to Manchester United by both officials and the prime minister.

    "If Boris Johnson gave the European Super League his backing and then publicly turned on the plan, then the British people deserve a full, clear and immediate explanation and apology."


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