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Champions League plan “step in the wrong direction”

UEFA’s proposals to expand the Champions League have been challenged by fans today, with Football Supporters Europe calling instead for “meaningful reform” to protect the game’s future.

With a decision expected very soon on the future of the Champions League, which would include 100 extra matches and four new “exclusive game weeks” running from Tuesday to Thursday, senior football figures from across the continent were warned of its dangers today.

At the European Leagues Club Advisory Platform meeting, supporters were represented by Ronan Evain, executive director of Football Supporters Europe, who argued that the plan would have a profoundly negative impact on football’s competitive integrity.

“Who stands to benefit from this format and the extension of the number of games?” Ronan asked the meeting of leagues and clubs. “Certainly not supporters. Most supporters do not want, or can’t afford, more football – instead we want a better football.”

The proposals from UEFA would also make concessions to the biggest clubs who have been drawing up plans for a breakaway European Super League by allowing entry for some teams based on historic performance in Europe.

This would guarantee participation in UEFA’s competitions for certain clubs even if they failed to qualify via performance in their domestic leagues, as it currently operates.

“The true beauty of football lies in its simplicity and unpredictability,” Ronan told the European Leagues meeting. “And what matters is what happens on the pitch.

“For many of us, the growing financial disparity between the leagues undermines this. Football needs to reconnect with fans, not antagonise or replace them. We have repeatedly called for meaningful reform to make the game more sustainable.”

Officials from Premier League clubs attending the meeting also expressed concern about the likely impact of UEFA’s proposals on domestic competition. Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish said the “creep was never ending”.

“We have three competitions, one of which – the League Cup – is the one of the largest financial contributors to the Football League and its 72 clubs,” said Parish.

“This proposal will probably see the end of that cup in its entirety, or reduced to some kind of youth competition. Where does this all end?”

Aston Villa’s chief executive Christian Purslow made similar points, rejecting the European Club Association’s view that participation in European competition should be based on coefficients.

The FSA has long-opposed the concept of a European Super League, but UEFA’s alternative plans represent a massive threat to lower league finances, domestic cup competitions, weekend football, and will all but lock out new entrants to European competition.

FSA chief executive Kevin Miles said: “It is heartening to see the European Leagues pushing back against clubs qualifying for European competition based on anything other than domestic sporting performance – and to see many of the FSA’s points echoed by Premier League clubs such as Crystal Palace and Aston Villa.

“Nonetheless the fact remains that while claiming to head off the threat of a breakaway European Super League, UEFA’s alternatives offer nothing more to fans than smaller steps in the same wrong direction.”

  • Football Supporters Europe will be making a comprehensive statement tomorrow (Thursday 11th March) about UEFA’s plans – follow them on Twitter.

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