“Football clubs in every town and city and at every tier of the pyramid have a unique place at the heart of their communities, and are an unrivaled source of passionate local pride,” he added.

Never a big soccer fan himself, Mr. Johnson framed his opposition to the plan in his belief in competition.

Each year the three worst performing clubs are relegated from England’s Premier League — its top domestic tier — while the top ones qualify to play in European competitions the following season. The European Super League proposal would have seen a number of big soccer clubs becoming permanent members — something that Mr. Johnson likened to creating a cartel.

In fact, when England’s first Football League was established in 1888 it was on a similar model and its membership was not selected on merit, said Matthew Taylor, professor of history at De Montfort University, Leicester who has written widely on soccer.

Yet the furor over the European Super League illustrates the growing role soccer has played in national life in recent decades.

“In the last 15-20 years it seems to be so pervasive and so significant to British culture — very broadly defined — that politicians have to say something,” Professor Taylor said.

No longer does it seem odd for politicians and members of the government “to make statements on issues that 40-50 years ago would have been seen as private matters,” he added.

That change first became noticeable under Tony Blair’s premiership as the growing success of the English Premier League, combined with the country’s “cool Britannia” branding, gave soccer a great profile.

But soccer can be dangerous territory too for politicians. Mr. Cameron was much mocked when he once appeared to forget his long-running claim to support the Birmingham team Aston Villa and seemed to suggest he favored a rival that played in similar colors.

Mr. Johnson, who appears to prefer rugby to soccer, has avoided that fate by never declaring his allegiance to any team.

But suggestions that the government might legislate to control the ownership of clubs seemed to conflict with Mr. Johnson’s free-market instincts.

Although a Saudi Arabian plan to buy the Premier League club Newcastle United ultimately failed, Mr. Johnson promised the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, that he would investigate a holdup to the proposed take over, according to British media reports.

“One of the many dishonesties in all this is that it would allow money to corrupt football,” said Professor Menon, referring to the European Super League plan. “Money has already corrupted football. Rich clubs get richer.”

The professor said he believed that very little would ultimately change because any substantial intervention would upset the successful operations of the Premier League, and therefore annoy fans.

But Professor Taylor pointed to Germany as a successful alternative model, and said that in threatening to intervene in the running of soccer Mr. Johnson might ultimately disappoint some of those who are applauding him now.

“Having made such a significant and bold statement, I don’t think this discussion will go away now,” Professor Taylor.


Britain Delays Brexit Border Checks for Goods Coming From Europe

LONDON — It was something politicians spent an age debating, diplomats devoted years to negotiating and officials spent a fortune preparing for.

But on Thursday Britain made the embarrassing admission that it is still not fully ready for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s biggest political project, Brexit.

Almost five years after Britons voted to leave the European Union, the government said it would wave through some goods arriving at British ports from the continent until January 2022 — a tacit admission that it lacks the capacity to perform the border checks required by Brexit.

The latest postponement to the Brexit process came as a relief to British businesses because it averts the risk of supermarkets running out of fresh produce, or car factories missing out on parts supplies.

according to a survey by Make UK, an organization representing manufacturers. Half said administrative and other costs associated with shipping had risen.

With tensions growing over trade, vaccine supplies and other issues, relations between London and Brussels have deteriorated into a state of semi-permanent friction.

In a statement, the British government said it was changing plans at the ports in response to complaints from businesses that had faced severe challenges during the pandemic.

“As a sovereign trading nation outside the E.U., we have freedom to take decisions in our national interest — and in the interest of our businesses,” said David Frost, who negotiated the Brexit trade deal with the European Union for Britain and is now a cabinet minister responsible for implementing it.

“We will now introduce border controls broadly six months later than planned to give traders time to focus on getting back on their feet as the economy opens up after a difficult year,” he said in a statement.

Still, the decision has prompted some mild ridicule from those who hark back to the 2016 campaign slogan urging voters to support Brexit and “take back control.”

The new ethos, critics joke, is to do this by not exercising any control at all.

British businesses welcomed the decision.

Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, a trade organization, said that without the delay, his sector faced “disruption, extra costs and potentially shortages of some goods, all of which were potentially avoidable.”

Applying the checks originally planned would also have had an impact on continental truckers’ willingness to come to Britain, which was “already fragile,” he said.

Many trucks delivering goods from continental Europe to Britain return empty to avoid time-consuming checks when they arrive in countries such as France, Belgium or the Netherlands.

Thursday’s decision followed the announcement of a separate and much more politically sensitive choice to delay fuller border checks on goods going from Britain to Northern Ireland.

Because trade with Northern Ireland is covered by a separate agreement with the European Union, Britain’s unilateral decision to delay checks on some goods headed there has angered the bloc, which says it violates international law.

The bloc’s executive body, the European Commission, is expected to begin legal action against Britain in the coming days.

Tensions between Britain and the European Union have alarmed businesses. Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, described Thursday’s decision as a welcome but temporary solution.

“What businesses want to see is an end to the damaging political rhetoric from both sides, and a focus on improving border flow for the long term,” he said.

Mr. Wright echoed that sentiment and said that Thursday’s announcement reflected not just a lack of infrastructure at British ports but also a worry that many continental firms were ill-prepared for the new paperwork.

But Mr. Lowe, the analyst, said that British preparations for Brexit had been hampered by political considerations and by the government’s desire to present the policy in a positive light. That meant that companies were given little information about the volume of red tape until late in the process.

“To prepare properly was to acknowledge that from an economic perspective Brexit was a bad idea and to acknowledge that it meant that businesses would face problems,” he said.


Oil Giants Prepare to Put Carbon Back in the Ground

During more than three decades in the oil and gas business, Andy Lane has managed the construction of enormous facilities for extracting and transporting natural gas, in places like Trinidad and Indonesia.

Now he is working in his native England, taking on a complex and expensive venture that essentially aims to reverse what he has spent much of his career doing.

Mr. Lane’s newest assignment is designed to collect carbon pollution from a group of chemical plants in northeast England and send it to a reservoir deep under the North Sea.

The multibillion-dollar project could be a breakthrough for a technology known as carbon capture and storage, a concept that has been around for at least a quarter-century to reduce the climate-damaging emissions from factories.

President Biden promoted carbon capture’s promise; last month, Exxon Mobil announced a $3 billion investment in low-carbon efforts, including carbon capture; and a week later, Elon Musk promised to put up $100 million for a contest seeking the best carbon-capture technology.

The project in England, in an area called Teesside along the River Tees, is led by the oil giant BP and expects to have size on its side: The area is home to one of the country’s largest clusters of polluting factories and refineries. By linking them together — collecting all their emissions by pipeline, and charging them a fee — BP hopes to achieve sufficient scale to make a profitable business of tackling their pollution.

Teesside “has quite a lot of the big industrial emissions sources in the U.K., and that is why this project makes sense,” Mr. Lane said.

It is also fast becoming a focal point of attention in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government, which is eager to cement support in the onetime Labour stronghold. The area’s turn toward Mr. Johnson’s Conservative Party helped it win big in the 2019 national election.

his budget presentation in Parliament that day, citing the carbon capture effort as he called Teesside “the future economy of this country.”

Mr. Lane and the area’s influential Conservative mayor, Ben Houchen — described by Mr. Sunak as “an inspiring local leader” — portray carbon capture as the means to rejuvenating run-down industrial regions like Teesside.

“It puts the region on the map and attracts additional investment,” Mr. Houchen said.

Teesside into a vast construction site, potentially employing 2,000 workers. BP and its partners propose to build a very large electric power station fueled by natural gas near a shuttered steel mill at the mouth of the river. The plant would help replace Britain’s aging fossil-fuel-burning power stations and provide essential backup electricity when the country’s growing fleet of offshore wind farms are becalmed. Equipment would remove the carbon dioxide from the power station’s exhaust.

Pipes would run through the area rounding up more carbon dioxide from a fertilizer plant and a factory that makes hydrogen, which is winning favor as a low-carbon fuel. BP also expects to connect other plants in the area. Pipes would take the carbon dioxide 90 miles out under the North Sea, where it would be pumped below the seabed into porous rocks.

Four other oil giants — Royal Dutch Shell, Norway’s Equinor, France’s Total and Italy’s Eni — are also investors in the plan, although the final go-ahead awaits a financial commitment from the British government. The price for the initial stage could approach $5 billion.

About two dozen carbon capture projects are operating globally, but the technology has struggled to overcome high costs and worries about liability if the carbon dioxide somehow escaped.

Oil companies are also under growing pressure to reduce the carbon content of the energy products they sell. They are investing in wind and solar power, which have proved to work, as well as in technologies, like carbon capture, that fit with their expertise and may not pay off until well into the next decade, if ever.

thriving offshore wind-turbine industry.

Late last year, Mr. Johnson’s government also said it would seed carbon capture investments with a fund of up to £1 billion. The government has proposed two carbon capture “clusters” like Teesside by the mid-2020s and two more by 2030. All the candidates are northern industrial areas, the region that helped assure the Conservative Party’s victory last election.

The investments would bolster Mr. Johnson’s pledge that Britain’s carbon emissions will reach net zero by 2050. The Climate Change Committee, Britain’s environmental watchdog, said in a recent study that carbon capture would be “essential to achieving” that goal at lowest cost.

If BP can put together a package including government support that provides sufficient profits for the company, the power plant could begin operating in around five years.

Mr. Lane’s goal, he said, is to create a regulatory and technology model that can be used many times, cutting costs like the wind and solar power industries.

“These things can be done, and they can be done repeatedly in many parts of the world,” he said. “But you have to start.”