PtG Article 26.09.2018

European Leagues and ECA in disagreement over possible third competition

ECA’s plans for an additional European competition is “threatening domestic football”, says European Leagues’ secretary Georg Pagnl at World Football Summit and also lashed out at UEFA prize money for cementing a competitive imbalance.

Madrid: European Leagues remain side-lined from discussions between UEFA and the European Club Association (ECA) over plans for a new third continental competition.

The plans were revealed by ECA chairman Andrea Agnelli earlier this month at his body’s conference.

While the ECA represents 230 elite clubs in Europe, European Leagues – formerly known as the European Professional Football Leagues – represents 32 leagues and more than 900 clubs and general secretary Georg Pagnl described the plans for a third UEFA club competition as an “external threat”.

Speaking at the World Football Summit in Madrid after Agnelli revealed that a third of UEFA club competition had “no commercial value” and was being driven by the smaller clubs in his association, Pangl launched a thinly veiled attack on the elitism of the ECA.

Pagnl said: “This development is threatening domestic football and we are not involved in negotiations with the ECA over a third European competition.”

The former chairman of the Austrian Bundesliga took issue with with Agnelli’s claim that UEFA money did not influence competitive balance at Europe’s 20 leading leagues and also relied heavily on UEFA statistics.

Pagnl said that in the first year of the Champions League pay-outs to competing clubs were €22 million but had since grown to just under €2.6 billion in 2018/19.

“And the top 15 clubs,” said Pagnl, “earn three times more than the rest of Europe.”

Using UEFA figures to make future projections, Pagnl claimed that between 2021 and 2024 the cumulative value of the Champions League would be €13 billion then rise to €21.1 billion by 2024-2027.

The impact of this money filters down through the leagues to damage competitive balance at medium-sized associations, which Agnelli had earlier tacitly accepted.

“Take FK Sarajevo for example,’ said Pagnl. “If they win the league in Bosnia and Herzegovina, they might earn €3 million to €5 million a year from taking part in the Champions League.

“They will use that money to buy the best players in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Then they will sell them after a year in the Champions League and after taking part again will use the money to buy more players again.”

New club rankings add to existing imbalances

Pagnl also hit out at UEFA’s introduction of a new coefficient for ranking clubs, which now considers historical success. This change meant Real Madrid would earn €35 million a year from the Champions League before a ball is even kicked, said Pagnl.

While Agnelli was granted the keynote speakers slot at the WFS and given time for questions, with the conference running late, Pangl had no time for questions. The Austrian was rushed off stage to make way for star speaker, Javier Tebas, the president of Spain’s La Liga.

Before he left, Pangl emphasised that his organisation represented 700 clubs outside of the ECA and that these clubs would “not like to increase the number of matches at international level.”

The only way to create spaces for matches from this new competition would be by reducing domestic games, which would mean smaller competitions and less clubs. “We should not artificially decrease the number of our clubs,” said Pagnl.

UEFA’s plans for a third competition could be approved at the European body’s meeting in Dublin in December and would reduce the Europa League to 32 teams – the same as the Champions League – and create a new third division with the same number of clubs.

Freelance journalist Steve Menary is covering the World Football Summit for Play the Game.

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