KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- The resistance of UEFA to full recognition of the European Professional Football Leagues has laid bare the contradictions in football’s governing systems.
EPFL, an umbrella organisation for Europe’s leagues but held frustratingly on the fringes of power, wants equal status with the European Club Association which has two representatives on the governing body’s executive committee.
However thus far, and despite cancelling its agreement not to schedule league matches on European club nights, no such welcome door has been thrown open by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.
The evident contradiction of the EPFL position vis-a-vis UEFA is that, in the political structure of the game, leagues are subservient to national associations.
This week’s sabre-rattling indicates unrest among the leagues out of growing concern that their interests are not being represented effectively by their own national associations.
In Oporto the EPFL general assembly heard more about the impasse from chairman Lars-Christer Olsson.
Later he said: “At our last general assembly the leagues decided to terminate the MoU but with intention to negotiate a new agreement [involving] the inclusion of EPFL in the decision-making bodies but especially to negotiate an agreement on the calendar issues which are getting more and more difficult.”
The failure to move forward had prompted the summoning of an extraordinary general assembly in June to assess progress – or the lack of it.
EPFL believes that UEFA can be brought to the table by the threat of seeing its TV audiences (and hence cash value of rights and sponsorships) for the Champions and Europa Leagues being affected by competing domestic match scheduling.
It is a dangerous game: fans in many European countries may prefer to stay at home and watch Ronaldo, Messi & Co in comfort on television rather than live domestic fare.
Olsson said the other major concern among the leagues was an increasing imbalance between the haves and have-nots of the club game.
Earlier in the week ECA chair Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said such talk was the stuff of “fake news” and a derivation, if even half true, of the difference in national broadcasting deals.
The leagues disagreed.
Olsson said: “The competitive balance in each of our domestic leagues is affected by what is happening in the international competitions.
“This has been one of the most important issues in European professional club football for at least for the last 10-20 years. The new club competitions cycle from 2018-21 will have a real effect on national competitions.
“So the task for our board is to try to conclude an agreement with UEFA on how the combination of domestic and international club competitions should be coordinated to avoid an negative impact on the competitive balance on domestic competitions and avoid negative consequences for international competitions.
“We think it’s time to come to an agreement and that the leagues are included in the decision-making processes in UEFA in the future.”
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