Posts Tagged ‘ ECA ’

Grave Threat to Football As We Know It.

The Barcelona Chief, Sandro Rosell, had already warned UEFA, in November of last year, of an imminent breakaway of the top European clubs by 2014. The warning was blunt – “If UEFA and the ECA reach an agreement, we would like to increase the Champions League under the umbrella of UEFA. If not, the ECA is entitled to organise their own champions competition.”

Rosell’s main aim is to cut the number of teams in country leagues to 16, in order to expand the Champions League. In addition, days will be freed up which will allow Barcelona to play friendly matches, bringing in large profits for the club, and allowing for Champions League games to be played on weekends, a move which would increase tickets sales, television viewership and, most importantly, revenue.

The current deal between UEFA and the clubs runs out in 2014, a date fast approaching. And, in order to get the clubs signatures again, Rosell has outlined a number of demands:

–        An expanded Champions League with up to eight teams from one country competing and big games played at weekends.

–        A total revamp of the international football calendar, including the reduction or even abolition of friendly matches.

–        Payment to clubs for the release of players to take part in the World Cup, European Championship and other tournaments.

–        A bigger share of money generated by football and a greater say in how the game is run.

More recently, during the latter weeks in January this year, UEFA has announced constructive talks with Europe’s elite clubs. General secretary Gianni Infantino is confident that the Champions League will remain the “best competition for clubs in the world.” Talks are underway over insurance for players departing for international duty, as well as a reduction in the international fixture list. A refusal to resign the agreement for participation in the top European competition which runs out in 2014 now seems less likely, with both sides compromising on several issues.

Money has already entered our game. Not slowly, but with a bang, which sees clubs being run by a passion for profits that a passion for the game. Critics have criticised Arsène Wenger in the past for operating the club with its wallet in mind. Not to mention the astronomical wages being paid out to footballers and exorbitant transfer fees which are fast leaving the less economically secure clubs out in the cold.

Some of these demands are not entirely negative. A revamp of the international calendar could be beneficial; we could entertain the possibility of less stretched out campaigns during which the risk of injury and fatigue is a major concern for those who actually pay the player’s wages. Payments to clubs for the release of players, however, is a disgraceful proposal. There is no higher honour in football today than the opportunity to represent your country on the international stage. Money rules all. An increased Champions League would serve no real purpose. It has already been extended throughout Europe, with the result of weaker teams entering the competition, their sole purpose to serve as stumbling blocks for the traditional Champions League teams. Undoubtedly, some of these teams have talent, as seen recently in Manchester United’s clashes with FC Basle and Otelul Gulati. But realistically speaking, these teams cannot win the Champions League, which has been the stamping ground of a select number of clubs for much of its existence. As these top clubs get richer, the situation will only stay the same. And as for downsizing each league, how does one choose which four clubs are cut? And how does one convince them that their removal from the top flight is really for the greater footballing good?

The other two demands simply serve to highlight the greed which has taken our game by the scruff of the neck. Rosell sees an opportunity to make more and more money than his club already earns. In La Liga, Barcelona and Real Madrid take the lion’s share of revenue generated from television coverage, and yet more is desired. Clubs should indeed have a say in how the European game is run, but only to a certain extent. The manner in which Rosell has conducted these ‘negotiations’ show that too much power has already changed hands. Football needs an independent governing authority with the best interests of football at hand, rather than clubs and profit margins running the show.

What is worse still are the rumours that top English clubs would be willing to make such a move. In England, they say, lives football – the game at its most passionate. Football fans around the globe need to act fast before their chance to oppose such a move is taken away. Each club needs to know the dangers it puts itself in, were they to agree to such a move. Football as we know it is in danger of becoming an all-out business. Granted, it is nearly there already. We just need to make sure it doesn’t take the final step.