UEFA accused of being out of touch with fans over Champions League proposals

UEFA has been accused by a group of Premier League fans of not being in touch with supporters over its proposals to reform the Champions League and of seeking to create a Super League through the back door.

European soccer’s governing body and its president, Aleksander Ceferin, praised fans for their role in thwarting attempts to form a European Super League almost a year ago.

However, those same fans feel UEFA’s new proposals to increase the number of Champions League group stage matches from six to 10 from 2024 and reserve two qualifying berths based on historic European performance instead of national achievements they will create a “cartel” of rich clubs. and harm national competitions.

The Football Supporters’ Association’s Premier League Network says these proposals should be rejected by UEFA, whose governing executive committee is expected to make a final decision on renewing the Champions League in Vienna on May 10.

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“We are united in opposition to proposals to reform the Champions League which are a backdoor attempt to return to the discredited idea of ​​a European Super League,” the Network statement said.

“Last year, it was our supporter groups that came together to force the collapse of the European Super League. At the time, UEFA told us that the fans were the heart of the game and promised that the opinions of the fans would be center stage in deciding what came next.

“So, with great dismay, we now face the prospect of changes to the Champions League which will mean many more group games will be played and some clubs’ entry will be based on a historical ‘UEFA club coefficient’ of five years.

“These proposals will only widen the gap between the wealthy clubs and the rest, while also tearing apart domestic league schedules, with the expectation that fans will sacrifice even more time and money to attend pointless group games.”

UEFA’s executive committee initially approved reforms to its men’s club competitions, including the Champions League, on April 19 last year, but with little fanfare or publicity, as happened in the hours after the Super League was launched.

At that time, the increase from six games to 10 was approved, plus one more tie to determine eight of the last 16, along with the inclusion of two coefficient places. The group stage would increase from 32 to 36 teams, with all teams playing in a major league and playing other teams under a seeded ‘Swiss system’.

UEFA have looked at the plans again following the collapse of the Super League, however the proposals clearly still provide too many concessions to the big clubs in the eyes of Premier League fans.

Under his latest proposal, teams could only qualify via coefficient if they immediately finished outside the usual Champions League places, to prevent them from overtaking rivals who finish higher. However, it is understood that teams could also win the FA Cup and qualify via a coefficient, while FA Cup winners with lesser European pedigree would not.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin (Nick Potts/PA)

“It is irresponsible and uncalled for to even consider doubling the number of home games fans will have to attend before the final -16 knockout round begins,” Network added.

“This will be exacerbated by the cost of living crisis that is hitting Europe. Furthermore, we do not see how increasing the requirement for teams and fans to fly around Europe is compatible with UEFA’s environmental commitments.

“Premier League fans don’t want 10 group games involving a small cartel of rich clubs further distorting the competitive balance. We want strong and competitive domestic leagues, equal opportunities for everyone to qualify for UEFA competitions based on sporting merit, along with a fairer distribution of the wealth of the game from the revenue those competitions generate.

“Last year we had constructive talks with UEFA President Ceferin, who promised to listen to the fans in this process. Our collective voice is unified and our position clear.

“We call on UEFA to show that it is acting in the interests of the wider football community and its supporters, not just in the interests of the few wealthy investors and state-owned clubs who, less than a year ago, tried to destroy European football. family.”

European Leagues, the umbrella group that includes the Premier League among its members, has sought from the start of the consultation to limit the increase in matches to eight instead of 10, and to award the two additional Champions League qualifying slots to the domestic champions of countries not currently represented in the group stage, rather than in the club coefficient.