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Labour candidate warns on 'utterly terrifying' outcome if Man City win case as Liverpool point made

Manchester City's attempts to sue the Premier League could be "the death of football", says Labour's candidate for Liverpool West Derby.

And Ian Byrne has once more demanded an independent regulator be introduced into the game as he outlined his grave concerns at what is happening with City's legal action against a league they have won for the last four years.

Mr Byrne was a serving member of Parliament prior to the official call for a General Election by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last week and the Liverpool season ticket holder believes City's plan to bring legal action against the Premier League should be pushed back on by everyone within English football, given what will be at stake if the current champions are successful.

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City, who have 115 financial charges hanging over them, dispute the need for Associated Party Transaction rules, which were introduced to stop companies connected to the owners of clubs artificially inflating the market value for sponsorship agreements. Their Abu Dhabi ownership group believe the regulations are unlawful and are seeking damages as a result.

The regulations were introduced back in December of 2021 following the takeover of Newcastle United by the Public Investment Fund for Saudi Arabia and were designed to deny clubs from exaggerating commercial deals with companies linked to their owners.

Mr Byrne says now is the time for football to finally be independently regulated and insists he will continue to make that argument, whoever succeeds in next month's election. In a chat with the ECHO, the Labour politician said: "I think it is utterly terrifying what we're seeing with Man City.

"And what they are actually doing is an existential threat to football itself because if they get away with what they want to do, they have the ability for sponsors to put unregulated amounts of money into the game then it gives carte blanche for a certain number of clubs to carry on doing what they're doing. And then the 115 charges being faced suddenly become irrelevant, so it is all around that sort of thing.

"It's extremely worrying and for me it shows that unfortunately football hasn't got the ability to regulate itself and now you have nation states coming into play and global politics and that is why I have been so passionate about defending a regulator, sitting on the bill committee, before Parliament was put on hold before the election, and we have fallen at the very last hurdle because the election was called, so it never got over the line. That was so disappointing for so many people.

"The news that has broken this week has proven that football's protection is so paramount, for so many, and there needs to be an independent regulator to ensure football stays competitive and a part of our heritage. Because if this battle is won by Manchester City, I genuinely think it is the end of football as we know it."

City have argued the current Premier League's rules that need 14 of their 20 member clubs to agree on changes before they are passed is the "tyranny of the majority" while also making the claim such restrictions around Associated Party Transactions are anti-competitive.

The legal action, though, has been widely criticised in national media since the news became public in The Times on Tuesday and Mr Byrne argues that English football is now fighting for its very existence, such is the seriousness of the case.

He added: "You think it is the wild west now, there is at least a degree of control with how things are implemented and there have been some constraints on clubs now. But if you have the owners of Manchester City or Newcastle - Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia - willing to come in and there is no ability to control spending then that is the death of football.

"City have won the last four [Premier League] trophies on the bounce where there are some constraints regarding sustainability regulations. If that all disappears and they are no longer there then where does football go next? Because a couple of clubs owned by nation states will be able to plough money in without any sort of constraints. Where will the competitive element go?

"Shame on the club, shame on the clubs who are supporting them and not seeing the bigger picture. I am amazed there are Manchester City fans who are not seeing the real issue, talking as though their club are being attacked. Come on, let's look at the bigger picture.

"If Liverpool's owners were acting like this I'd be the first to call them out, the Spirit of Shankly would and I am sure every single fan who has got the love of the game in their heart, sees past that and looks at it in a holistic way. You know that the game is toast then. It is sportswashing in effect, absolutely. All in all, this harms and undermines the Premier League model. They have let the foxes into the chicken coop."

On Labour's plans to bring forward the Football Governance Bill should they oust the Conservative Government after 14 years in power, Mr Byrne says: "I can't speak with any degree of certainty but with this happening now, there was a willingness in Parliament for the regulation to go through and the Labour party supported it.

"It was laid down and it is a ready-made piece of legislation now which can be picked back off the shelf and put through, so the Football Supporters Association wrote the letter and called on the next government to implement it and we will await with interest the Labour manifesto which I am sure will be out next week.

"If not, there will be massive pressure from MPs like myself and others across the spectrum to make that piece of legislation become part of the statute book because it has been highlighted this week: without it, the game is utterly at the behest of nation states who aren't acting with the best interest of the game in its entirety."