Europe’s top flights have urged for a wider debate about UEFA’s plans to introduce a new competition starting in 2020-21.
Early this month, UEFA approved the new so-called UEL2, a new European competition beginning in 2021 that would consist of 32 clubs primarily from lower-ranked leagues. This new competition would take the total number of clubs playing continental tournaments from 80 to 96.
This proposal has a major impact on the future of football in Europe. As such, it should be discussed more broadly. Critical issues concerning the long-term health of clubs, scheduling, broadcasting rights, competitive balance within domestic leagues, or the relationship between domestic leagues and European competitions have so far been ignored.
“While the European Leagues have accepted the introduction of a third club competition, UEFA cannot make these decisions in isolation from the leagues that they affect,” said Javier Tebas, president of LaLiga.
“Europa League 2 will place greater demands on smaller clubs, who are the basis of healthy competition and the growth of European football, and risks creating a further divide within leagues of those who have lucrative European football and those who don’t,” he added.
LaLiga calls for further consultation with leagues, UEFA and other stakeholders to ensure that all concerns are heard before the UEL2 and the overall model for UEFA Club Competitions (UCC) can go ahead.
European Leagues, the Association of European Professional Football Leagues, has presented a complete proposal for UCC including detailed inputs to improve access and revenue distribution of the Champions League (UCL), Europa League UEL and the new Europa League 2 (UEL2).
Within this context, the leagues outlined the need for a new and more inclusive access list and a new revenue distribution model where solidarity is properly recognised to restore and support competitive balance in domestic competitions.
European Leagues proposes an increase in solidarity payments from 7% to 20%, for clubs not participating in European competitions, smaller leagues and federations. This would considerably increase the long-term sustainability of the model and reduce the impact on clubs who are not participating.
Despite the refusal from UEFA to change the access list for UCL, the European Leagues proposal also includes a more open and inclusive access list and clear guidelines on scheduling, with priority given to domestic competitions. As the first phase of any European competition, domestic leagues must come first and the existence of new competitions, without proper planning, could affect their very existence.
More importantly, considering the upcoming decision on the revenue model, the European Leagues proposal includes a significant readjustment of revenues distributed between competitions, preventing the over-allocation of funds towards Champions League participants and eliminating the historical coefficient model that unfairly prioritizes past achievements over current sporting results.
“It’s imperative to review the way revenue is distributed in the whole UCC model, including of course the financial distribution of Champions League,” Tebas stated. “Through further dialogue, a more inclusive and democratic model of European competition can be created, that respects the economic stability and the competitive equilibrium of the national leagues. This is one of the greatest challenges faced today across our continent and if it is not tackled decisively, it could have disastrous consequences in the long term.”
The leaders of a few national leagues had their say on the issue.
“At the Eredivisie, we take the issue of competitive balance very seriously. We have recently approved a new regulation in the Netherlands for sharing among all clubs a percentage of the revenue coming from UEFA Club Competitions. It would be logical for UEFA to follow this good example by implementing a fairer revenue distribution model that could compensate the growing financial gap between a few top clubs and all the others, both in international as well as in domestic competitions.”
Jacco Swart, CEO, Eredivisie (Netherlands)
“In Denmark, we have been having an open dialogue with our Federation, since it is our common interest to have a competitive and compelling league at national level and at the same time to have Danish clubs performing well in the international competitions. We have both asked UEFA to reconsider the way financial resources are redistributed so as to achieve these goals. We believe it is fundamental to review the whole distribution system, from Champions League to Europa League and the new competition, in order to generate a positive impact for all professional clubs.”
Claus Thomsen, CEO, Divisionsforeningen (Denmark)
“The Swiss League and its clubs are very much concerned about the new access list approved by UEFA for the UEL2. Considering our current ranking, the number of Swiss Clubs with opportunities to access European competition would remain the same but with the new format we will have less clubs playing in UEL and more clubs playing for UEL2 which is a competition of lower level and prestige. The access to UEL is getting stricter, following the path of the Champions League to become a more elite competition.
The decision on the revenue distribution is still to be taken and we are requesting that UEFA increase the level of compensation in a substantial way in order to manage the huge financial gap between Swiss clubs regularly participating to UEFA Competitions and the remaining clubs playing solely at domestic level. It’s becoming imperative to better protect the competitive balance of national leagues to guarantee the long-term sustainability of European football.”
Claudius Schäfer, CEO, Swiss Football League
“To be honest we were expecting UEFA to introduce an a even more inclusive access list for UEL2, but overall we welcome a format which will give to more clubs from more countries the possibility to play in Europe. It is now time to review the financial model. Champions League clubs are receiving too much money from UEFA. We need more money to be shared among all clubs, and especially, among those clubs not participating to international competition. At the Ekstraklasa we work to provide most of our clubs the chance to compete and win the Polish championship while dreaming to play in Europe. UEFA has a huge responsibility to keep this dream alive for all our clubs.”
Marcin Animucki, President, Ekstraklasa (Poland)