UEFA and ECA’s Champions League reforms on the rocks

UEFA and ECA’s Champions League reforms on the rocks
UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, and the European Club Association’s (ECA) have been put on the defensive over their proposals to revamp the Champions League.

German Football League (DFL) President Reinhard Rauball has said that opposition from his country’s top-flight, the Bundesliga, and English soccer’s Premier League will bring down the ECA’s plans, largely adopted by UEFA, for a new ‘super league’ starting in 2024.

The ECA and UEFA's proposals to revamp the Champions League would see promotion and relegation implemented to all-but close off the elite competition to outsiders, primarily benefitting Europe’s richest clubs.

However, the Bundesliga and the Premier League have both released statements outlining their opposition to the reforms, with the latter saying on 5th June that its 20 teams are in ‘unanimous agreement’ that the proposals ‘would be detrimental to domestic leagues across the continent’.

Raubal, who also serves as president of Borussia Dortmund and vice president of the German Football Association (DFB), has now added that an Anglo-German alliance can put a stop to the proposed changes.

“I am the president of the German league and president of Borussia Dortmund; our league, the Bundesliga, decided 100 per cent that we don’t go this way with the ECA,” said Rauball, speaking to reporters at this week’s FIFA congress in Paris.

“(English FA representative) David Gill thinks in the same way, the German and British leagues are opposing it and I don’t think it is possible we will find a solution without Germany and without England.”

The ECA has so far stressed that talks are at an early stage and denied that the reforms would lead to a ring-fenced league, despite the fact that 24 of 32 places in the new competition would be reserved for certain clubs regardless of where they finish in their domestic competitions.

Rauball likened the proposed format to the “closed shop” found in American sport, adding that it would have a negative impact on the domestic leagues and smaller clubs in the European soccer pyramid.

Adding: “In Europe we have a traditional football pyramid, and in Germany we have the [Bundesliga] league with the highest attendances [in Europe], more than 42,000 average, and that has been developed step by step. So we don’t want to destroy it with one decision.

“We have to make clear that the national league is most important. If you make a pyramid like the ECA, we would destroy all the clubs and that is what is dangerous. We are traditionalists and we want that this is the future of football as well.”

Rauball’s fears regarding the impact on domestic competitions as a result of the ECA’s plans are spelled out in a study conducted by professional services firm KPMG evaluating the potential economic impact of a new super league.

The report, which was seen by Spanish outlet Palco23, warns that the Champions League revamp could see the value of audiovisual rights in European soccer leagues fall 20 per cent, while it would be particularly detrimental to Spanish soccer’s LaLiga, which could see its rights revenue drop by as much as 41.5 per cent.

Perhaps pointing to the motivations behind the revamp project, according to the KPMG study, UEFA would stand to double its audiovisual revenue if it is able to push through the reforms.

Given the potential impact on LaLiga as a result of the ECA’s proposals, it is little surprise that it is at the forefront of opposition. The league’s outspoken President Javier Tebas has already voiced his concerns on a number of occasions.

Now, in a letter seen by the Associated Press, seven top-tier Spanish soccer clubs - Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Malaga, Sevilla, Real Sociedad, Valencia and Villarreal - have written a letter to the ECA protesting against plans they say represent ‘the biggest threat in the history of European football in recent years’.

The letter from the seven teams expressed concern over a lack of consultation and openness about the reforms, and even threatened to end their membership of the ECA.

The clubs wrote: ‘The new European Club Competitions model proposed by UEFA and the executive board of the ECA represents a potential great threat, not only to national leagues and the great majority of clubs, but for all European football, representing a frontal attack to the competitive balance and to the stability of domestic competitions.’

Adding: ‘We firmly believe that European competitions should be a reward for excellence, in which the best teams participate in a competition open to all, based on the principles of sporting merit, solidarity among clubs, fair distribution, etc.’

Discussions over the proposals will now resume at the latest ECA meeting in Malta, which gets underway on Thursday.

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