GENEVA: Two years of wrangling have come to an end after the Association of European Professional Football Leagues approved its new agreement with European governing body UEFA.
The agreement came at an extraordinary general assembly of the EPFL and concerns a variety of issues on the shape and future of European football.
The EPFL said the issues include the organisation’s representation within UEFA decision-making bodies, cooperation on current competition structure, formats and principles, along with match scheduling issues.
Lars-Christer Olsson, chairman of the EPFL, said: “I am delighted that our members have approved this agreement we have reached with UEFA which we both feel will protect and enhance the competitive balance within football.
“This agreement recognises the fundamental role played by the domestic competitions for the sustainable development of football both at national and international level.”
The agreement comes after UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin in April pledged that European football’s governing body would not bow to “blackmail” from stakeholders over its plans for the sport on the continent.
However he issued more emollient comments last week, saying it was important that all stakeholders should be in the European game’s governance.
Čeferin responded positively, saying: “I am pleased that we have reached a new agreement with the European Professional Football Leagues. It is our conception of good governance that our key stakeholders are included in decision-making processes.”
A Memorandum of Understanding between EPFL and Uefa formally expired on March 15. This effectively granted all European leagues total freedom to schedule their matches as they see fit – including on the same days and at the same kick-off times as UEFA club competitions.
The terms of the agreement came under extra scrutiny after UEFA decided to stagger kickoff times on its European club competition evenings.
The amendments are set to take hold from the 2018-19 season and will work across the 2018-21 cycle of UEFA’s club competitions. Under the changes, the top four clubs from the four top-ranked national associations will now qualify automatically for the group stage of the Champions League.
The automatic qualification would benefit the top four leagues in the European coefficient ranking, currently the Spanish LaLiga, German Bundesliga, English Premier League and Italian Serie A.
June 6 – After months of thorny negotiations, Europe’s major leagues say they have ended their long-running dispute with UEFA after being promised a greater say in the decision-making process, not least when it comes to Champions League fixtures.
A Memorandum of Understanding between the EPFL and UEFA expired in March and EPFL chairman Lars-Christer Olsson, himself a former UEFA chief executive, said at the time that the two sides were still some way off forging a new accord.
As a result, the EPFL scheduled their first ever extraordinary general meeting in Geneva today and announced afterwards that a new co-operation deal was being finalised, with UEFA due to ratify it in the autumn.
Under the deal, said Olsson, the EPFL will have a voting voice on UEFA’s executive committee and other bodies, just as Europe’s major clubs do under the umbrella of the European Club Association. To accommodate this change, he said, the UEFA statutes would have to be changed when European football’s governing body holds its own extraordinary congress in September.
This new agreement will enter into force on the date of its signature by both parties, effectively ending the EPFL’s threat to schedule domestic league games on the same midweek nights as European club fixtures.
Olsson admitted that the 2018-21 cycle, which gives more Champions League group stage places to teams from the top four leagues and fewer for clubs from smaller leagues, was a virtual fait accompli but that thereafter his 32 members would have a greater say in UEFA decisions that affect them, not least distribution of income.
“Most of the decisions are already made for the 2018-21 cycle …but participating in the structures of UEFA means we can involve ourselves when matters come up,” Olsson told reporters.
“From the date the agreement is signed, the EPFL will have proper recognition by UEFA and full membership in the important decision-making bodies including the executive committee. We are convinced that keeping competitive balance is absolutely necessary to safeguard the game.”
Rumours have been rife in recent months that some Champions League games might in future take place on Saturday evenings but Olsson said this was not going to happen without his organisation’s approval.
“We have agreed on how the international calendar should be treated. If there is any change in the future – and there are no Saturday matches now apart from the final – it will have to be in agreement with the EPFL. The current calendar is the starting point.”
Olsson made it clear the EPFL’s relationship with UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin was far healthier than under his predecessor Michel Platini.
“It’s obvious he is looking for a bigger inclusion of stakeholders than in the past,” said Olsson. “We have a totally different climate now in the discussions.”