Now German and Swiss leagues hit out over mooted Champions League makeover
The DFL, Germany’s professional soccer league, and the Swiss Football League today joined the growing list of opponents to plans to revamp the Uefa Champions League.
The DFL, which represents the 36 clubs of the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga, said it rejects the current reform proposals for the international club competitions from 2024 onwards, while SFL chief executive Claudius Schaeffer said he fears his teams may lose access to the competition altogether under the proposals being considered by Uefa that would in effect create a closed league from 2024.
The German and Swiss leagues join England's Premier League, Spain's LaLiga, France's Ligue 1 and Italy's Serie A in expressing concerns over the planned reforms, while there is collective opposition in the form of European Leagues, the body which represents the continent’s top national leagues.
Indeed, France's LFP said following a general assembly late this afternoon that 32 of its clubs had rejected the Uefa plans, with three (unknown) abstentions.
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.
In a statement, the LFP said: "French football is concerned by the sporting and economical consequences for national leagues. French football has decided unanimously to present to Uefa an alternative proposition in the next coming days."
A draft that emerged recently 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.
Christian Seifert, chief executive of the DFL, said in a statement: "The presently discussed concept of the European Club Association would have unacceptable consequences for the national leagues in Europe and should therefore not be implemented in this form. We must not allow, that the traditional national leagues are damaged in their attractiveness for millions of people across the continent.
"We are convinced that Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin correctly assesses the value of the national leagues as the heart chamber of European professional football and will continue to moderate further proceedings in a foresightful manner. A possible reform of the already very successful European club competitions should be satisfactory for all participants, not just for a few."
Seifert continued: "In all discussions, two points are of crucial importance: the number of games in the football calendar and, above all, access to international competitions. Changes to these must not jeopardise the relevance and future of the national leagues in Europe. This would sustainably damage the whole of European football – and that can never be in the interest of the Uefa."
Schaeffer told Reuters: "We need to have a movement because we have many clubs who are very critical or against the vision presented by Uefa, and we have the leagues and we also know that the fans organisations have expressed serious concerns about such a vision. Everybody who is interested in safeguarding the football we have at the moment needs to stand up."
He said the possibility of just four national league champions qualifying for the elite competition "breaks a fundamental principle of European football," adding: "As a club, you must have the dream that you can one day play against the big teams. It is a principle of our football pyramid that you still can have this dream to play against those teams."
Schaefer continued: “When you read the Uefa statutes, they say sport prevails over commercial issues and payments should mostly take the form of solidarity. It is not the role of Uefa to have the best competition. They are also the governors, they have responsibility for 55 of their associations and the league football and all professional clubs in Europe, not just a few."
Last week, European 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.