New UEFA, club talks could block Super League breakaway plans until 2024
GENEVA (AP) — European clubs are set for fresh talks with UEFA that should block a breakaway Super League until at least 2024.
Two weeks after UEFA and the European Club Association agreed on Champions League entry slots and prize money models through 2021, both sides said on Tuesday that negotiations for the next three-year cycle will start within months.
"This is a kind of guarantee that the clubs stay united under the umbrella of UEFA," Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the ECA and Bayern Munich chairman at a news conference.
Rummenigge spoke after two days of closed-door meetings that revealed disunity and unhappiness among clubs from lower-ranked national leagues which will be squeezed by the Champions League deal agreed last month.
A breakaway, American-style closed league for rich, storied clubs is typically threatened before UEFA begins signing Champions League broadcasters and sponsors to three-year contracts. Total revenue in the 2015-2018 seasons for the Champions League and Europa League tops 2.2 billion euros ($2.47 billion) annually.
An ECA-UEFA working cooperation agreement also expires in 2021, opening the chance for a split.
Still, Rummenigge assured on Tuesday, "We will cooperate in the future with UEFA, there is no doubt about that."
The latest Champions League deal was agreed on last month in Monaco after months of raised tension fueled by influential clubs including Juventus and Real Madrid.
Italian and Spanish clubs were among winners in changes agreed for the 2018-2021 Champions League.
Italy is among the top-four ranked national leagues—with Spain, Germany and England—which will each get four guaranteed places in the 32-team group stage. Italy has two teams in the current qualifying system.
Spanish clubs which go deep into the competition will get more prize money, because broadcast revenues from the richest TV markets will be spread across all successful clubs instead of being targeted at clubs from that country.
The current model ensured Manchester City topped the prize money last season—getting about 75 million euros ($84 million) from UEFA—despite losing in the semifinals to eventual winner Madrid.
"I believe that was not fair and serious," Rummenigge said.
Another change to prize money distribution will reward storied clubs for their past titles.
Rummenigge said this decision—skewing future money away from newcomers like Leicester toward traditional clubs like AC Milan—was made by UEFA.
UEFA told clubs in Monaco last month to expect "significantly" increased prize money in the 2018-21 seasons.
The 153 clubs attending on Tuesday were told to expect a 30% rise in club competition revenues, a projected total of 3.2 billion euros ($3.6 billion).
Delegates from lower-ranked clubs declined to speak publicly about the influence of elite clubs who cash in most from the Champions League, and would likely be part of a Super League.
Real Madrid's ECA board delegate, Pedro Lopez Jimenez, noted sharply that marketing analysis suggested the best model for the Champions League would include only 24 clubs. The 32-team group stage this season has room for clubs from Bulgaria, Denmark and Poland.
Rummenigge insisted European fans are a priority, despite demand from broadcasters worldwide to provide more matches involving top teams at times to suit non-European audiences.
"Our will is to make (supporters) happy first, and not playing, I would say, at crazy kickoff times," the West Germany great said. "We never talked about to play in the afternoon or at noon to make our Asian friends or whoever else happy."