European Clubs' Association: Europe's big five leagues warned about dominance

By Simon StoneBBC Sport in Geneva
European Clubs Association
The representatives at the meeting included ex-Crystal Palace midfielder Aki Riihilahti (far left) and former Manchester United and Fulham goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar (second left)

Europe's big five leagues have been warned their growing dominance of the continent's football landscape will not be allowed to continue unchecked.

A two-day meeting of the European Clubs' Association (ECA) in Geneva ended with chairman Andrea Agnelli talking of reforms being in place by 2022, rather than December 2019 as was the case earlier this year.

The abrupt switch of deadlines underlines the lack of progress that has been made by the ECA in talks over generating a wider level of competition, more games and higher income from Europe's three major club competitions, including the new Europa League 2, from 2024.

It is clear the clubs, especially those from second-tier countries such as Holland and Poland, regard the 'big five' - the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 - as being major obstacles to the changes being demanded.

"Uefa distributes money to big, medium and small countries," said Edwin van der Sar, the Ajax chief executive.

"The big five leagues collect money from all over the world and keep it in their own jurisdiction, plus they get solidarity payments from Uefa. This is not sustainable."

It is understood the Premier League's leading clubs - Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United - were all represented at the 169-member gathering in Switzerland and are not the object of the ECA's irritation but the leagues themselves.

"You can easily see who is investing and who is protecting individual interests," said HJK Helsinki chief executive Aki Riihilahti.

Initial proposals for a Champions League containing four groups of eight teams, with 14 games and 20 clubs no longer needing to qualify, have now been dropped.

Agnelli hopes to have an alternative plan ready by next March, which can then be opened up for discussion, with the aim of having a revised format for European football agreed by 2022.

It is likely the same leagues will again be opposed but Agnelli, who is also the chairman of Juventus, made a thinly veiled threat that he was prepared to proceed even if they fail to come on board.

"We will not get beyond an 80% satisfaction rate," he said. "That is the point we get to in order to approve any motion at ECA.

"There are some deadlocks and we must put together the various elements and concerns to find a solution that fits the majority.

"There has to be an answer by 2022 because that is when Uefa go to market for the TV rights from 2024."

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