European Leagues urge UEFA to make Champions League fairer
ABS-CBN Sports on Oct 20, 2018 07:50 AM
Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, center, celebrates after scoring against Valencia during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Valencia and Barcelona, at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, Spain, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)
By Graham Dunbar, Associated Press
GENEVA (AP) — The European Leagues group has urged UEFA to allocate club competition entries and billions in Champions League prize money more fairly.
The leagues' proposal on Friday includes reversing changes which took effect this season giving four guaranteed Champions League group-stage places to Spain, England, Italy, and Germany, plus more guaranteed prize money to storied clubs with European titles dating back decades.
It seeks to help close a widening wealth gap among European soccer clubs, and follows UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin's aim to achieve greater "competitive balance" in international and domestic events.
The leagues also want weekends to stay protected for domestic competitions, prohibiting Champions League games except the final, which has been played on Saturdays since 2010.
The 28-nation group wants its ideas to feed into ongoing UEFA consultations for a planned new competition kicking off in 2021 when changes can next be introduced.
UEFA has suggested 32-team group stages in the Champions League, Europa League, and an unnamed third event. The plan could be approved at a Dec. 3 executive committee meeting in Dublin.
The project is supported by the influential European Club Association, which pushed UEFA to approve the last round of changes in 2016 weeks before Ceferin was elected.
Fairer shares of prize money and solidarity payments are needed to help competitions stay competitive, the European Leagues group said after a six-monthly assembly in Frankfurt, Germany.
"A change is necessary. We have to act now," European League secretary general Georg Pangl said at a news conference.
The leagues' research suggested that of all the Champions League prize money paid by UEFA from 1992 to 2018, about 7 billion euros ($8 billion), or 48 percent, went to a group of 14 top clubs.
In the next six years, the top 14 clubs are on track to get the same 7 billion euros ($8 billion) which is now 63 percent of the UEFA prize fund.
UEFA was urged to set limits ensuring Champions League prize money does not exceed 3.5 times the Europa League fund, and Europa clubs should get only 2.5 times the sum shared among clubs in the third competition.
The leagues also want UEFA to help close the wealth gap by increasing payments to clubs which do not qualify for European competitions, and which must be spent on youth training or club infrastructure.
"This will be a true act of solidarity," said Netherlands league official Jacco Swart, adding the big four leagues plus France agreed to waive the payments to help lower-ranked countries.
Clubs from the four biggest leagues have increased their domination of European soccer by winning every Champions League since Porto's victory in 2004. Only Spanish and English clubs have won the Europa League since Porto in 2011.
The new Champions League prize money model has awarded top-ranked, 13-time champion Real Madrid 35.5 million euros ($40.7 million) before playing a game this season. This was part-funded by cutting payments to teams from the most valuable television markets — typically England and Italy.
Even middle-ranked leagues have been affected by lucrative Champions League group-stage prize money with a single club often enjoying years of domination.
The leagues must now hope UEFA — whose 20-member executive committee includes two club delegates but only one league representative — can be persuaded.