Scudamore hits out at Champions League revamp proposal
Richard Scudamore, the long-time head of English soccer’s Premier League, has joined critics of plans to revamp the Uefa Champions League, warning, like others, that they could damage national leagues.
The European Club Association, chaired by Juventus president Andrea Agnelli, is calling on Uefa to restructure the Champions League in 2024, with the possibility of a more closed system in which top clubs would qualify automatically, as opposed to the current arrangement in which participants are determined by domestic league positions.
A draft that emerged last week proposed a switch from eight groups of four to four groups of eight, and 24 of the 32 teams qualifying automatically, alongside four semi-finalists from the previous season’s Europa League and just four national league champions, with limited promotion and relegation.
However, Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin has insisted that consultations are ongoing and no decisions on the format have been made as yet.
Scudamore, who stepped down as executive chairman of the Premier League at the end of last year, but remains involved in an advisory capacity, is concerned that the ECA proposal would excessively strengthen the top clubs at the expense of smaller ones and unbalance domestic leagues.
In an interview with BBC Radio Five Live, he said: “I am looking slightly from the outside in now but I think you’ve got a situation where every tournament organiser is entitled to look at their own competition and see how best they can reorganise or restructure.
“I actually think the ECA’s proposals, under the chairmanship of Mr Agnelli, from what I have seen so far, look completely out of order to me. I would hope, and I know Mr Ceferin very well at Uefa and he’s a very sensible man and a very good man, that he will consult. He has promised to consult, and he has promised to talk to everybody.
“I think he needs to take a real, hard look at what this could do to domestic leagues which are effectively the bed-rock of football across the whole of Europe, across the whole world. I hope that this is the start of a consultation, and not the end of it, and I trust Mr Ceferin will do the right thing.”
Scudamore added that it was important for domestic leagues to retain a strong element of competitive balance and “I’m afraid that is where league organisers are always at odds with individual clubs. It is unavoidable, individual clubs want to win everything, win all the time, want to dominate. They want all the advantages, they want the financial advantages, the sporting advantages.
“If you go down Mr Agnelli’s proposed route, which is more European competition and less domestic competition, it is bound to harm those domestic leagues. Not just the Premier League but across the whole of Europe.”
Last week, European Leagues, the body which represents the continent’s top national leagues, held separate meetings with leading clubs and with Uefa, as it seeks to ensure that it will have input on any changes to European club competitions.
Lars-Christer Olsson, the president of European Leagues, insisted that a majority of clubs were not in favour of the “pyramidal” structure proposed by ECA, or any type of closed league, and that it would look to ensure the leagues and their members were involved in the decision-making process.