Monday 21 October 2019

German FA head says alliance with Premier League will block European Club Association's Champions League revamp

A general view of the Champions League logo
A general view of the Champions League logo

Matt Slater

Plans to radically restructure European club football after 2021 will be blocked by an Anglo-German alliance, according to the acting head of the German FA.

The debate over the future of the Champions League, Europa League and new Europa League 2 has split European football this year, with the elite clubs on one side of the argument, domestic leagues on the other and governing body UEFA trying to keep the peace.

The dispute started when the European Club Association's first plan for life after 2021 emerged: a Champions League based on four groups of eight, not eight groups of four, a promotion/relegation system and fewer spots available for new domestic champions.

This provoked a fierce response European Leagues, the umbrella organisation that represents domestic competitions, with the likes of the Bundesliga, LaLiga and Premier League also speaking out against the plan, too.

Much of their anger was caused by the fact that UEFA appeared to be going along with what they viewed as another attempt to introduce a European Super League, something the confederation's president Aleksander Ceferin has repeatedly denied.

But that was the backdrop on Tuesday to a meeting in Paris of UEFA's executive committee before Wednesday's 69th FIFA Congress.

With almost everybody acknowledging that the initial plan is dead, there was no appetite to formally address the post-2021 landscape at this meeting and it was all wrapped up, as Ceferin predicted, within half an hour.

But afterwards Reinhard Rauball, German football's interim leader and president of Borussia Dortmund, told reporters what the next move is likely to be and who will make it.

Rauball explained that the Bundesliga voted unanimously to reject the ECA plan and he said UEFA treasurer David Gill, a former Manchester United chief executive and FA vice-chairman, agrees.

"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," he said.

"It's a special situation for (ECA members) Bayern and Borussia Dortmund, which is my club, but our league comes first and we have to take care that a successful league is not destroyed.

"There are several thoughts but at least all the people are saying let's take the problem and cool it down. Let's first discuss and perhaps we find a compromise, step by step."

And if that was not clear enough for Ceferin, French premier Emmanuel Macron also weighed in on Tuesday when he met FIFA president Gianni Infantino at a pre-Women's World Cup event.

While this is not FIFA's fight, Macron told Infantino, a former UEFA general secretary, that he was concerned about the plan to overhaul European club football as it would have "an impact" on national leagues.

This leaves the ball very much in the ECA's court and we should not have long to wait to find out what they intend to do with it, as they are meeting in Malta on Thursday and Friday.

With broadcast deals locked down until 2021, there is still plenty of time to find a solution and there are some obvious compromises that could be made around the number of guaranteed Champions League slots for the big leagues and the revenue split between the teams in Europe (and not in Europe).

PA Media

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