More European clubs oppose plan to overhaul Champions League

ASSOCIATED PRESS
PARIS
Published 08.06.2019 00:17

Teams from France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Switzerland have added their voices to concerns about plans to transform the Champions League.

As the European Club Association was meeting Friday in Malta, The Associated Press obtained statements from executives at Schalke, Lazio, Saint-Etienne, Monaco, Bordeaux, Braga, Basel and Young Boys expressing opposition to the Champions League becoming a largely closed competition.

The expressions of dissent follow the Premier League announcing that England's 20 clubs all opposed the UEFA concept. There is also a split in Spain , where seven of the country's nine ECA members are part of the resistance, although Barcelona and Real Madrid appear to remain behind the organization. The ECA, which is led by Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli, has pushed a vision presented by UEFA that wants 24 out of 32 group teams starting in 2024 to return the following season. "The meeting in Malta was useful to see that at the moment there are diverse positions on the way to develop football in Europe," Lazio president Claudio Lotito said. "Several European Clubs and the majority of Italian clubs are against the changes presented by the ECA. "We have to stop the current plans and we have to sit with all stakeholders and start the whole project from scratch. We need to guarantee the long-term sporting as well economic sustainability of both the national championships and the European competitions."

From Germany, Schalke chief executive Peter Peters said "we need now to start with a blank page" by abandoning the current concept.

The new plan would involve promotion and relegation from the Champions League with the Europa League, which would have similar locked-in places and movement with a new third-tier competition.

The concept under consideration could remove much of the intrigue in domestic leagues, where there is a chase for European qualification places.

"The meeting in Malta was a step forward for the efforts to block the reform," Saint-Etienne president Bernard Caiazzo said. "ECA guaranteed that no reform will negatively impact the value of domestic championships both economically and in terms of sporting merit. This is an important first step for the majority of clubs, who worry that their championships will lose value if a semi-closed European league model is put in place."

Monaco deputy chief executive Nicolas Holveck complained that the meeting in Malta did not discuss prize money to ensure a "fairer distribution model among participating and non-participating clubs so to guarantee the proper competitive balance both in Europe and at league level."

From Portugal, Braga board member Joao Carvalho questioned whether the UEFA and ECA proposal for European competitions "will only benefit a limited number of very rich clubs in Europe." Wanja Greuel, chief executive of Swiss champion Young Boys, called for a model that "could benefit ALL clubs in Europe and not solely the elite European clubs." Expressing concerns about changes to the current competition formats, Basel chief executive Roland Heri issued a reminder that "the passion of our fans is mainly driven by the domestic games we do play at domestic level in Switzerland."

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