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June 2021

Uefa and the Premier League get ready to fight it out

by Tony Attwood

When Aleksander Ceferin became Uefa president he said his first job would be to reconsider plans to give more Champions League revenue to the larger clubs in Europe.  It was a message more in keeping with Fifa’s self-generated headlines about reform than a serious attempt at real live change and so no one particularly worried about it.  But the notion of Uefa vs The Big Clubs has been simmering away in the background ever since, just waiting for its moment to return.

And it might now be coming to the surface once again.

In response to talks of the last breakaway, Uefa gave Italy, England, Spain and Germany four guaranteed slots each in the Champions League each year and changed the revenue split to favour those clubs that had previously been most successful in getting through to the group stages.

But the smaller federations said they were not consulted (a bit odd because this is Uefa, and it doesn’t do consultation) and so elected Ceferin with a mandate to sort it out and unpick the old deal.

Ceferin then said, “We should show we are the ones who are the governing body.  At the same time we have to have dialogue with the clubs and I’m sure this situation can be solved.”

And then… nothing.  A case of welcoming the new boss who turns out to be the same as the old boss.   For in his very first press conference as president, Ceferin insisted he would rework the financial fair play rules that the disgraced Platini had diluted to such a degree they are now no longer relevant. And…. nothing.

“FFP should be enforced more strongly because the gap between the rich ones and the poor ones is wider and wider,” he said.  So we waited.

And… nothing happened.

Aleksander Ceferin then said he would hold talks with Richard Scudamore after accusing some leagues of attempting to “blackmail” Uefa, but he would not comment on whether he considered the Premier League to be one of the league seeking to “impose their will on the associations because they think they are all-powerful on account of the astronomical revenues they generate”.

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However he did say that he was unhappy about Premier League games happening on Champions League nights, as has happened recently when Manchester City played Stoke City last month at the same moment Barcelona and their referee beat Paris St Germain.   Ceferin said that he would discuss the matter with the PL shortly.

It is indeed true that there was an agreement between the European leagues and Uefa not to play games in the top leagues when CL games are on.  But the European Professional Football Leagues group has now rejected that deal now that Ceferin is said to be wanting to change the guarantee of four places each in the Champions League for the top leagues.

Ceferin then replied that, “To some leagues, I shall say it calmly and dispassionately, but firmly and resolutely: we will never give in to the blackmail of those who think they can manipulate small leagues or impose their will on the associations because they think they are all-powerful on account of the astronomical revenues they generate.

“Quite simply, money does not rule and the football pyramid must be and will be respected. It’s as simple as that.”

Now that (the concept that money does not rule football) was a new notion to most of us, and we have been waiting to see what comes next.   But Ceferin would not go into details, and added only that   “The important thing is that nobody can blackmail us and that, if we want to co-operate and do something good for football, we have to sit at the same table and discuss it.”

The Premier League however has retaliated saying that Uefa is guilty of “hoarding” dates for its own purposes.   To this Ceferin responded by saying “there will be no closed league. Quite simply, that is not in line with our values and ideals. It’s as simple as that.”   The “closed league” to which he refers is one made up of the top clubs in Europe, and which has little or no relegation, and which would once and for all control when the pesky monopolies of Uefa and Fifa could take their players, wreck them, and hand them back saying “see that you get them fit again for the next round of matches.”

In short the Uefa position is ludicrous.  It claims the right to the closed shop, but tells everyone else their notion of a closed shop is wrong.  But it was ever thus.

A technical wobble

The article

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