Football Supporters Europe (FSE) believes that proposals to reform UEFA club competitions by expanding the UEFA Champions League are deeply flawed. They will not solve any of the problems that fans care about—on the contrary, they have the potential to make them much worse.
Adding more clubs and games to European competitions will increase financial inequality between and within domestic leagues, cement the dominance of elite clubs, and make for less entertaining football in the long run. Additional games will also put further pressure on domestic calendars, providing incentives to reduce the size of leagues and discontinue traditional cup competitions. And already stretched fans will be asked to spend more time and money to pay for a version of the game with which they largely disagree.
Moreover, the new format could include a ‘wildcard’ mechanism designed to allow clubs to qualify for Europe based on historic performance. If realised, this would represent a clear attempt to privilege underperforming elite clubs at the expense of all others. It is anti-competitive by its very nature. FSE is opposed to any move that would divorce qualification from sporting merit.
The opinions of fans on these matters are just as important as those held by leagues, clubs, and the rest. As FSE Board member Martha Gens recently declared:
“Fans have played a central role in keeping their clubs afloat during the coronavirus crisis. Clubs and the football authorities have publicly recognised this, highlighting the importance of fans and their positive contribution throughout a difficult period. This is why there can be no return to business as usual. The future of the game must be based on solidarity, transparency, and sustainability.”
To this end, FSE believes UEFA club competitions reform must:
- Not include additional games.
- Guarantee an equal opportunity for all clubs to qualify based on sporting merit.
- Retain qualification based solely on performance from the previous domestic season.
- Revive the competitive balance in European competitions.
- Acknowledge the central importance of domestic competitions in the European football pyramid.
- Promote a more equitable distribution of revenue between participating clubs.
- Dramatically increase solidarity payments to benefit non-participating clubs.
This would not require the reinvention of the wheel. Constructive change would simply entail a willingness to recognise the factors that make European football so entertaining, popular, and successful—sporting merit, competitive balance, solidarity—and a commitment to strengthen them. This, and only this, will ensure that clubs and communities from across the continent enjoy a fair share of the game’s economic and social benefits.
Summing up FSE’s position and the views of many fans, FSE Executive Director Ronan Evain commented:
“In many leagues, the winner is already decided before the first ball is kicked. For countless fans, then, the dream of European football has effectively been killed by the gap between the haves and have-nots. Even ECA chairman Andrea Agnelli admits that an increasing number of young people are not interested in football because it is so uncompetitive. The game urgently needs to re-establish its relationship with fans, not impose unpopular reforms or come up with fanciful schemes to replace them.”
For a more comprehensive overview of FSE’s position on UEFA club competitions reform, read our position paper.