GENEVA: Andrea Agnelli, new president of the European Club Association, has had no encouraging words for small clubs who fear the wealth gap growing ever wider within the continental game writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Agnelli, president of record Italian champions Juventus, was elected by acclamation as the only candidate standing to succeed Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who stepped down after nine years in the role.
The European Club Association was created in 2008 out of negotiations with European federation UEFA and swallowed up the old G14 elite group.
However the G14 core remains ever more firmly in command, judging by Agnelli’s initial remarks about the current, revised European club competitions system generally considered as strengthening the rich at the expense of the poor.
This may not come as too much of a surprise considering that, for example, Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khailifi is an ECA exco member by virtue of his joint status as an ECA delegate on the UEFA professional football strategy council.
Agnelli said: “I am comfortable in stating that the majority is in favour of the Champions League as it is, and also for the 2021-24 cycle which will give it some stability going forward.
“We are not expecting a soap opera going forward as the Champions League cycle is pretty much set for 2021-24 . . . Stronger teams becoming stronger is not an issue though there are elements that need to be addressed.”
Agnelli also struck a tone on transfer spending which will be welcomed by the rich clubs of the Big Five leagues.
Asked about Paris Saint-Germain’s €222m purchase of Brazilian superstar Neymar from Barcelona, he said: “If the system is healthy then those transactions are fair. This year’s numbers just confirmed the growth rate we had for the past seven years.”
Agnelli also appeared to suggest that UEFA’s financial fair play regulations should be eased still further – directly contradicting the expressed concerns of UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.
The new ECA president said: “As a business manager you should be looking at the balance sheet and value creation in the long term, and not the profit and loss statement.
“That was a perfect tool to address the debt delays and overall losses of the system. Now that has been tackled, what are the best set of rules going forward?”
Agnelli also reiterated the standard, long-running ECA theme that greater restrictions were needed over national team fixtures. He thought further discussion should be undertaken with FIFA and UEFA.
ECA has two seats on the UEFA executive committee and these will be taken up by Agnelli and exco member Ivan Gazidis, the Arsenal ceo. The ECA vice-presidents are Pedro López Jiménez (Real Madrid), Edwin van der Sar (Ajax), Dariusz Mioduski (Legia Warsaw) and Aki Riihilahti (HJK Helsinki).
Other ECA exco members: Ed Woodward (Manchester United), Ivan Gazidis (Arsenal), Josep Maria Bartomeu (Barcelona), Nasser Al-Khelaifi (PSG), Jean-Michel Aulas (Lyon), Michael Gerlinger (Bayern Munich), Michael Verschueren (Anderlecht), Domingos Oliveira (Benfica), Anders Hørsholt (FC København), Peter Lawwell (Celtic).
ECA representatives on UEFA’s Professional Football Strategy Council: Bartomeu, Woodward, Al-Khelaifi and Lawwell.