Sport Soccer

Monday 10 December 2018

League of Ireland clubs fear Euro cash cutback

UEFA's Giorgio Marchetti. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
UEFA's Giorgio Marchetti. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

UEFA's head of competitions has insisted there will be no losers from changes to the structure of European club football from 2021 - even though the three Irish clubs who currently qualify for the Europa League will instead be funnelled into a new tournament.

Giorgio Marchetti said that UEFA have yet to confirm what the value of participating in the UEL2 will be.

This is information that will be vital to League of Ireland sides that are hugely reliant on the cash from qualification.

Three of Ireland's four European representatives will be kicking off in that competition from 2021 and will no longer have access to the Europa League.

Instead, it's the League of Ireland champions who are most likely to benefit from the changes.

Once they overcome their first hurdle in the Champions League, they will be assured of a parachute opportunity to qualify for the Europa League group stage and - failing that - they will have a crack at participating in the group phase of the new UEL2 tournament.

UEFA's priority is to ensure that more domestic champions will get the opportunity to prolong their European campaigns into the autumn.

This is to compensate for the stiffening of the route to the Champions League. If the Irish champions get knocked out of the Champions League at the first hurdle, they would go straight into the qualifying rounds of the UEL2.

However, the prospects for the sides that qualify for Europe via podium finishes in the league or the FAI Cup are less clear.

Ranked

They will consigned to the early rounds of the UEL2 where they will be playing against sides from similarly lower-ranked leagues.

The bottom line selling point will be the cash involved for those clubs. As it stands, they gain €240,000 for entry into the Europa League with another €260,000 available if they come through one round and the money goes up accordingly with further progression.

Marchetti said that no details are available as yet on the value of UEL2 - the idea will need to be branded and given a commercial profile to sit in with the other two competitions.

Effectively, this change is reducing the size of the Europa League in an attempt to make it a more elite event sitting as a support for the Champions League.

"This is a pyramid," said Marchetti. "We have to work to build it as a pyramid. I guess that maybe less (he appeared to be referring to the overall value of UEL2 relative to the Europa League) but it's important money that's going to be distributed to clubs.

"One thing for sure is that there will be 16 clubs that today will be out (of group stage) football

"It is absolutely not true (to say smaller clubs will lose out). We will work to improve distribution and solidarity for all.

"There will be money and robust financial guarantees. We have to work on the commercial strategy.

"The most chances are reserved for the domestic champions now. That is the concept. We don't think there is anyone losing out.

"Nobody has the opinion that there are losers. We think there are winners."

However, the fear in smaller leagues is that the changes will cement the position of dominant clubs who consistently win their own leagues. Dundalk are the Irish club best placed to benefit.

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