UEFA’s attempts to restructure European club football look destined to fail after the Premier League said its clubs, along with several sides in Spain, oppose the plans.
Juventus president Andrea Agnelli, chairman of the European Club Association, had been leading a push to revise UEFA’s current club competitions – two exist at the moment with a third set for introduction in 2021 – with a new three-tier structure from 2024 that would throttle the involvement of new clubs by incorporating promotion and relegation.
In simple terms, Agnelli has been plotting to entrench the dominance of the continent’s richest clubs while simultaneously weakening the importance of domestic football.
While that may well have looked attractive to certain Premier League clubs in isolation, the financial muscle of the league has been driven by the collective since it was formed in the early 90s. Thankfully, a sense of solidarity resides.
In a statement released this morning, they wrote: “The Premier League and our clubs today unanimously reaffirmed our strong opposition to the proposed reform of UEFA club competitions from 2024, which would alter the structure, calendar and competitiveness of league football.
“We believe the proposals – particularly the suggested format and qualification criteria – would be detrimental to domestic leagues across the continent.
“There was unanimous agreement that the domestic game should continue to be the priority for professional clubs, and any changes to the football calendar must respect the requirements of domestic competitions.
“Critically, qualification for the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League must continue to depend on current domestic performance.
“The clubs have asked the Premier League to now work with UEFA, fans and other stakeholders across Europe to identify constructive proposals which improve European club competitions without harming domestic football.”
It’s not just the clubs who are against the ECA and UEFA’s plans. The Football Supporters’ Federation has joined forces with other fan-led groups from across Europe to also express their concerns about how domestic lower leagues and cup competitions could take a big hit.
Kevin Miles, chief executive of the FSF, said: “These proposals are totally counter to the principles of sporting achievement, and the knock-on effects would be disastrous throughout the game.
“The plans could force lower league clubs to the edge of the abyss, destroy domestic cup competitions, and pull up the drawbridge on teams with no European pedigree.
“It doesn’t matter how big or small your club is – these proposals would be massively damaging throughout the football pyramid. We’ll do everything in our powers to oppose them.”
The FSF has the full back of the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust who have written to Gunners managing director Vinai Venkatesham asking for him to back six key principles.
Promotion and relegation based on sporting performance – from the bottom of the pyramid to qualification for Europe
No to closed leagues or franchise football – qualify on results, not through history or heritage
Weekends are for domestic leagues – protect fan culture, home and away. No live broadcasts on Saturdays at 3:00pm
We want competitive leagues – no to even more concentration of wealth and on-going domination by a fixed few top clubs
Domestic football comes first – protect the pyramid and cup competitions
Share the wealth – money from elite football should be shared across the whole game
A meeting of supporters ‘Fans Europe’ is taking place early next month, by which point we hope Agnelli’s plans – due to be discussed at a meeting of the ECA this week – are as dead as Julius Caesar at the Theatre of Pompey.