Fans’ groups from across Europe have united in an open letter calling on European Club Association chairman Andrea Agnelli to scrap “reckless” plans to modify the Champions League.
Supporters representing 14 teams including Arsenal, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax have said plans to expand Europe’s premier competition to 36 teams — from the existing 32 — with each club playing 10 group matches are a “blatant power grab.”
The “Swiss system” proposals, which would come into effect from 2024, will provide a safety net for elite clubs who fail to qualify by allocating two places on past performance in Europe.
The overall number of matches played will increase from 125 to 225, putting domestic leagues under huge pressure to reduce their fixture schedule to accommodate the alterations. Juventus chairman Agnelli, a fervent backer of the scheme, will chair an ECA meeting on Friday to decide whether to support the changes.
If approved, UEFA are expected to ratify the proposal when its executive committee gathers on Monday.
“Your plans to restructure the Champions League by increasing the number of games, introducing qualification based on past achievements and monopolising commercial rights present a serious threat to the entire game,” read the letter signed by the groups under the collective umbrella of Football Supporters Europe (FSE).
“Instead of realising your supposed goal of ‘building a successful, sustainable and social responsible football industry,’ you will only make the gap between the rich and the rest bigger, wreck domestic calendars, and expect fans to sacrifice yet more time and money.”
UEFA believes the expanded Champions League will increase revenues and avoid the much-rumoured European Super League breakaway but the fans’ groups believe it will skew competitive balance, creating a closed shop with 15 founder members given guaranteed participation.
FSE argues that not all of the ECA’s 200-plus members would benefit.
“Such a blatant power grab would be indefensible at the best of times, but at the height of a global pandemic, it is nothing more than crisis profiteering — not to mention a stark contrast to the solidarity displayed by fans,” it added.
“Over the past year, we have supported our clubs unconditionally, buying season tickets with no hope of attending games, and paying for TV subscriptions to watch repetitive ties held in empty, soulless stadiums, all while you were working behind the scenes to find new ways to bleed us dry. But we do not have the time or money to invest in your fantasies or fund your insatiable greed. And in the end, we are your business model.
“Even most ECA members stand to lose out from the proposed reforms. We are the fans of today and we do not want more European games. We want strong, competitive domestic leagues, an equal opportunity to qualify for Europe based on sporting merit and fairer sharing of the game’s wealth.
“We therefore demand that you drop your reckless plans. We also call on football’s governing bodies to stop making concessions to elite clubs and intervene to protect the future of the game.”