Following a meeting of representatives of many of Europe’s biggest clubs in Geneva, strong words of warning were issued to the continent’s big five leagues over their growing dominance. The European football landscape is very much being dictated by these five continental superpowers, and they were right to receive a sharp reminder of their ever-increasing power.
Much of the ECA meeting saw smaller clubs and leagues expressing a fact that the current one-sided shift to a big five monopoly over European football would not be allowed to go unchecked. Reforms to the UEFA structure are set to be in place by 2022, later than the December 2019 deadline that had been previously discussed earlier in the year. Chairman of the European Clubs’ Association (ECA), Andrea Agnelli, ended the two-day meeting by explaining reforms to the UEFA structure are set to be in place by 2022, later than the December 2019 deadline that had been previously discussed earlier in the year.
These reforms were set to address and rebalance the commercial prospects for clubs and football associations across the continent, but so far little progress has been made by the ECA. They have been engaging in talks seeking to generate a wider level of competition, more games and a higher income from all three of Europe’s major club competitions – including the yet to start Europa League 2 – from 2024. However, given the slow progress so far, the abrupt switch of deadlines has been forced.
Largely it has been seen, especially from those in second-tier countries such as Holland and Poland, that the ‘big five’ leagues – the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 – have been major obstacles to the changes being demanded, keen to maintain the current status quo that sees them receive the lion’s share of commercial revenue.
Representatives of these smaller sideshave full right to demand a greater slice of the proverbial pie when it comes to European commercial revenue. These sides battle it out for European glory just the same, and although they are not always present in the latter stages, that is often down to this lack of commercial support domestically which simply prevents them from competing on equal footing with their big five counterparts.
Clubs represented in this frustrated voice included Finnish side HJK Helsinki, who’s chief executive Aki Riihilahti pulled no punches in accusing the big five leagues of protecting their own assets at the expense of the rest of Europe, rather than seeking to collectively develop it.
Ajax, who made quite the memorable mark in the Champions League last season one might remember, were also quick to make their points clear. Chief executive Edwin van der Sar called on UEFA to address the disparity, calling the current system unsustainable.
Van der Sar and Riihilahti are right. The big five leagues have a tight-fisted monopoly over commercial revenue at the moment, and it stifles European development. It just doesn’t seem in the best interests of Europe.