Several clubs declare opposition to proposed Champions League reform

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Champions League Final - Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool - Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid, Spain - June 1, 2019 General view of the Champions League trophy inside the stadium before the match REUTERS/Susana Vera

(Reuters) – Several European clubs from Switzerland, Germany, Italy, France and Portugal have publicly declared their opposition to a proposed creation of a nearly closed Champions League, saying that other clubs are also concerned.

The proposal has been put forward by the European Club Association (ECA) which has 232 members and is working with UEFA to redesign European competition from 2024 onwards.

However, following an ECA meeting in Malta on Thursday and Friday, several member clubs said that it needed a fresh approach.

According to European league officials who have seen the plans, the controversial proposal involves a three-tier European league with promotion and relegation between each tier.

The top tier would be the new version of the Champions League but 24 of the 32 teams would keep their places for the following season, breaking the tradition that qualification is achieved through performance in domestic competition.

The ECA says it wants to help clubs outside the biggest five leagues by giving them more regular European matches.

“Any reform should ensure that clubs of all sizes can continue to develop and grow to their full potential in a manner which also protects domestic competitions,” it said in a statement.

Schalke 04 chief executive Peter Peters said in a statement that “nearly all European clubs are not convinced” about the proposal and that discussions needed to start “with a blank page.”

Lazio president Claudio Lotito took a similar line, saying “most” Italian clubs were against the plan.

“We have to stop the current plans and we have to sit with all stakeholders and start the whole project from scratch,” he said in a statement.

St Etienne president Bernard Caiazzo said the meeting in Malta was a “step forward in efforts to block the reform”.

AS Monaco’s deputy CEO Nicolas Holveck said that the meeting had failed to discuss the revenue distribution of club competitions, which many observers feel is heavily weighted in favour of the big clubs.

“We believe it is important to implement a fairer distribution model among participating and non-participating clubs to guarantee the proper competitive balance both in Europe and at league level,” he said.

Wanja Greuel, chief executive of Swiss champions Young Boys, said that “for the very first time several clubs from all over Europe have stated their firm opposition to the current proposal presented by UEFA and ECA.”

Greuel said most clubs would “fight to implement a different European football model which could benefit all clubs in Europe and not solely the elite European clubs.”

FC Basel’s chief executive Roland Heri said fans groups in Europe had also raised concerns. “The passion of our fans is mainly driven by the domestic games we play at domestic level in Switzerland,” he said.

Frederic Longuepee, president of Girondins de Bordeaux, said a significant number of clubs were worried about impact of the reform on domestic leagues and fans’ expectations.

“Any coherent reform can’t protect the interest of a few at the expense of the majority,” he said.

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