Saturday, October 24, 2020

EXCLUSIVE: Europe’s Top Clubs Want Breakaway League

Is a breakaway league really on the cards? Every year 16 of Europe’s best clubs, including 3 from England meet to discuss the latest pressing issues from around the European game. Often these meetings tend to focus on things such as rule changes; club versus country issues; television and other media rights; the power of UEFA and exploitation issues for new technology streams.

Originally these meetings were annually but such is the rate of change among the modern game that it’s not uncommon for these meetings to take place 2 or 3 times per year.

The last of these meetings was in December 2017 and another is due shortly after the conclusion of the World Cup in Russia. For legal reasoning, we’re unable to delve into the full schematics of the event but what we can EXCLUSIVELY reveal are two topics of discussion that took place;

  • Claims from a former professional referee, now retired, that the result of a Champions League knock-out game was influenced by a third party and thus the result was never genuine.
  • The possibility of a breakaway European league (This is a common subject debated annually) – Some of the 16 clubs have declined to discuss the idea of a European league in recent years.

The European Breakaway League

Previous discussions have established that at some point a breakaway league will happen which will involve moving into a new governing body separate from UEFA and the respective clubs FA. This decision has been made whilst being completely aware that this will result in a European wide UEFA ban and very possibly a global FIFA ban initially, although there will likely be negotiations regarding FIFA.

The expected outcome when the eventual breakaway league happens is that it will likely result in the demise of UEFA and a complete restructuring of national leagues. – Again, these are things UEFA and the respective Football Associations are aware of.

Up to this point, it remains UEFA’s greatest threat, to such a degree that UEFA has drafted several counter proposals which have all been declined. Those clubs that are interested have realised the financial potential involved as all clubs will negotiate their own TV and media rights – something Europe’s governing body cannot match.

During a winter meeting in 2015, a proposal of 2018 was initially agreed upon. The agreement had led to an increase in European clubs being sold in the build-up to this year. However, a newer plan proposed in December 2017 indicates a change would be more appropriate between 2021-2025. Although there are several clubs who prefer a 2025-2028 target instead.

UEFA’s Counter-Proposals

Breakaway League

UEFA have been taking this increasing threat evermore seriously over the last 5-10 years and they’ve offered a number of counter-proposals to those clubs looking to break away.

The original offer from UEFA involved changing the name and format of the Champions League to a closed, European super league with a fixed number of teams. The clubs selected for the competition will not change and they will be decided on contribution with past victors and 1 or 2 others only receiving invitations.

Regardless of the eventual changes, UEFA will, of course, need to re-evaluate the Europa League which would see the introduction of a 3rd European competition, although the details have yet to be discussed in detail.

Many of the clubs involved have raised concerns that the proposal of a 3rd league is coming from outside of Europe. To be more specific Stephen Ross, an American investor involved with the Miami Dolphins NFL franchise has on several occasions requested a meeting with a host of Europe’s top clubs.

Most of the clubs’ representatives have yet to respond to the offer made by Stephen Ross as they wish to discuss issues surrounding how the competition will be funded beforehand and amongst themselves. The offer from Mr Ross has been on the table for nearly 2 years and as of June 2018 nothing further has happened beyond this point. Of those involved; the English FA, as well as Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal, have all offered signs of encouragement with UEFA’s counter-proposals.

UEFA’s newest proposal offers some of Europe’s elite clubs an opportunity to become a permanent fixture in the group stages of the competition (probably to previous winners) and then see it supplemented by Champions and second place sides each season. Again, with discussions for the re-introduction of a third competition or the significant restructuring of the Europa League are still being ironed out.

UEFA’s plan is to create a summer / pre-season tournament which will eventually become a parallel league to the existing domestic leagues and it still offers opportunities for a complete breakaway league in future years.

Breakaway League

So far, UEFA has negotiated minor changes that will see the four entrants from England, Germany, Spain and Italy enter the existing Champions League group stages, fundamentally scrapping the idea of qualifying rounds for the 4 nations.

The ECA (European Club Association) has so far backed the propositions made by UEFA, however, there is a hesitance to present any further updates to many of Europe’s top sides’ who have actively declared themselves interested in the European League breakaway for obvious reasons. Currently, 3 sides from England consider themselves part of the “Elite” discussing the breakaway league, those sides are; Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea (both Liverpool and Arsenal have not been invited into these discussions as of yet).

A feeder system was also discussed in July 2017 which would facilitate the ownership of lower-tier sides by bigger teams in an affiliate, feeder and/or academy set up. Although UEFA decided against making that decision.

Chinese Counter-Proposals

Another proposal, this time made by the Dalian Wanda Group discusses the opportunities of expanding into the Chinese and South American markets (purely for financial gain). Those considering the break-away “elite” league have held individual introductory meetings with the Dalian Wanda Group although the plans were very broad and lacked detail which has resulted in further meeting invites being met with scepticism.

The biggest USP for Dalian Wanda is the offerings of significant additional income for those “elite” European clubs. So far, the general feeling from the introductory discussions is that the “elite” would not want it on a league basis but could be open to including other sides in some sort of expanded World Club competition.

UEFA European Repercussions

If the expected happens, there is a huge chance that revenue generated through sponsorship and TV deals will follow Europe’s top clubs out the door. As a result, this would completely rupture the current UEFA set-up and every domestic football association under FIFA will need to heavily restructure their leagues.

An initial reaction would probably see a new 16-team English Premier League with 5 or 6 teams leaving the domestic league for a new look European league which will not be based on official UEFA rankings.

Other officials involved in the process have speculated that it could, in fact, lead to the Premier League being disbanded as a whole with a lesser-funded new league system taking precedent in England. Many expect the FA would restructure into two 20 team divisions with lower leagues regionalised as they were many years ago.

Although we are currently around 10 years away from any formal action being taken FIFA have already made it clear they will ban any players taking part in a breakaway league from International football (FIFA may well back down from this decision, however, in order to stop FIFA from potentially disbanding also) and any clubs involved will also lose their professional status.

Editors Opinion

I’m of the opinion that European football needs a complete overhaul. Although I am not overly sure on the format of a break-away league it will certainly force the restructuring of many domestic leagues.

Financially speaking, football still isn’t at its peak. Many professional sides (besides those at the top) will fall victim to he aggressive nature of football finances. Whether we as fans like it or not, more and more money will go into the sport in the near future.

Whilst grassroots funding will still remain there will likely be 100s of European teams who have their funding removed (Southern, Northern, Conference, Division 2, Scottish Divisions 1-3, League of Wales will not get the funding needed to continue on any sort of professional basis).

The focus for domestic clubs will be surrounding the financial stability and making sure they’re able to compete in a new British league structure. Any new structure will need to make sure it hits the ground running without 6 of their top sides (although initially, it may only be 2 or 3 sides).

Adaptation will be the key to success. Clubs like Accrington Stanley will need to carry on as amateurs or face extinction (yet again). Recently Hartlepool has been struggling – again it needs to adapt.

Football is no longer for the working-class man. It’s a sport developed around the mantra of big businesses and sponsorship at the highest of levels. We cannot blame the sponsors for wishing to tap into the disposable income of the fans and ride the back of the advertising that flows naturally from the success some clubs achieve.

Long gone are the days of the cloth-capped, hobnailed-booted, chimney sweep making his way, rattle in hand, to cheer on his team at Anfield on a Saturday afternoon.

The new age (10-12 years away) represents an opportunity to see the likes of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus and the other major European sides play in a week-on-week regular competition.

Expenses will increase but with it comes propositions of visiting cities such as Milan, Barcelona & Paris. Whilst the working-class man will still be able to have a pint of wallop with his chums leading up to kick off, they just might need to follow one of the sides from the suburbs.

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