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By Tony Attwood
The announcement of a competition that aims to rival the Champions League is yet another example of a subject that much of the the national media in England has been warned off talking about.
Fortunately for those of us who like to know what is going on, even if it is against the wishes of some, Goal announced this at the end of last year, and The Athletic has since had a piece on the subject. Forbes had a piece on it too, although they claimed that the major clubs had not yet rallied behind the idea.
And in one interesting report, the Independent newspaper has said that the Prime Minister of the UK would ban English clubs from joining it, by putting legislation in the Football Governance Bill which is supposedly on its way. And that is interesting because it suggests the FG law will enforce adherence to an approach to football that has been shown to be against EU law – although that’s all right since the UK is not in the EU.
The new idea is that sixty-four top European clubs would play in three divisions, with each team playing 14 matches. There would be promotion and relegation at the end of each season, and the competition would be run without Uefa, whose ability to run matches (such as the Champions League find in France) has been questioned.
And indeed, in order to make a strong impact, every game in the opening seasons at least would be free to air on TV.
As before, at the heart of the proposals are Real Madrid and Barcelona, and it is said that sponsors are being sought. The President of Uefa said that he was amused by the proposition.
Critics of the idea have focussed on the notion that nearly £3bn is generated from TV revenues for the three European competitions, which makes up around 85% of Uefa’s income each year. The argument then is that it is impossible to imagine the new competition without this vast income.
But a free-to-air competition would get a massive audience, and of course, bring in mega levels of advertising revenue. Without the money, Uefa would probably wither within on season.
The reporting of the new venture however is largely being undertaken by operations that benefit from and have invested in the current situation, and thus they are friendly toward Uefa, no matter what it does, or how incompetent it appears, and so are unlikely to give any rival idea a fair hearing.
But the media have also shown that there is a limit to how far they will forgive Uefa for its crimes and sins, as with the wholesale reporting of the disaster that was the 2023 Champions League final, revealing quite clearly that the horrors of 2022 were not a one-off as the media had pretended, or didn’t happen at all as Uefa invented.
The problem for Uefa is that it has been deemed by the courts to have abused its dominant position in the market, which means that it has no wriggle room at all in terms of organising the Champions League and other competitions.
Meanwhile, the existing platform for the three European competitions is itself running into trouble, with reports suggesting the hoped-for advertising revenue from the TV rights is not emerging. Uefa had said that it expected to get £4.3billion income in 2024/5 but it looks like they’re not going to do it. There is talk of a shortfall of over half a billion pounds.
Of course Uefa has the media on its side because Uefa grants the journalists the free passes to watch the matches. For although the media reported the story of just how awful the arrangements were in Istanbul (see for example “How the Champions League final descended into chaos”) it is assumed by the media that football supporters are so simple, that they don’t link that situation, and the situation in Paris the previous year, with the organisers: Uefa.
The media love Uefa because Uefa give the media free tickets and hospitality. But it is frankly ludicrous to think that any fans who have ever experienced Uefa inspired chaos will think the same way.
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