CHRISTIAN RADNEDGE REPORTS: The president of Mexico’s Liga MX club Santos Laguna has criticised the CONCACAF Champions League as a “joke.”

Alejandro Irarragorri told fcbusiness of his opinion of central and North America’s flagship club competition, the latest edition of which has reached the quarter-finals stage.

Historically Mexican clubs have enjoyed the most success in the Champions League, known as the CONCACAF Champions Cup from 1962 until 2008.

But Irarragorri, whose Santos finished runners-up twice (2012, 2013), claimed that the competition’s financial setup did not reward fairly the clubs who have qualified from their respective nations.

He said: “It’s a joke, really a joke. The money is getting nowhere close to the teams so the money is staying there in the confederation and this is something we need to change because we are providing the value, we are providing the entertainment and the flow of money is ridiculous.”

However, when fcbusiness contacted CONCACAF about Irarragorri’s concerns, a spokesperson explained that prize money for clubs had been increased for the 2017 edition, perhaps a concession about how monies had been distributed previously.

The spokesperson said: “To further incentivise clubs, the CONCACAF Champions League implemented a prize money structure for the 2016-17 event. The winners get $500,000 while there is a pot of $700,000 to be divided among the other semifinalists.

“Additionally, travel stipends were increased to $80,000 per match.”

Cash comparison

To put those figures in perspective, the winners of the AFC Champions League will receive $3m, while the winners of the biggest club competition in the world, the UEFA Champions League, stand to win more than $16m.

A total of 24 teams compete annually in the CONCACAF the Champions League, with two teams each year coming from the Liga MX.

Even though Mexican teams have been invited in the past by CONMEBOL to participate in South America’s Copa Libertadores, Irarragorri found no joy there either as he explained some of the restrictions that were forced upon the club.

He said: “We were invited to that tournament [Copa Libertadores], but rather than treating us as you treat a guest when you’re invited into a house, they treated us with limits in terms of rights that we had.

“So for instance, if a Mexican reached the final of the Libertadores, the game couldn’t be played in Mexico – it had to be played in South America, just to give you an example of the different rules that applied for Mexican teams against South American teams.”

A more diplomatic reason for Mexican teams not participating in the 2017 edition of the Copa Libertadores was given by Liga MX president Enrique Bonilla in November last year, saying that the change to a year-round format for the competition meant it would clash with Mexico’s league calendar.

With the winners of the Copa Libertadores believed to now receive around $3m, perhaps Santos would be more inclined to accept an invitation from CONMEBOL in 2018.

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