UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin hints ‘players will have to take pay cut’ if they want fewer Champions League games as European chief says new format driven by hard-up clubs
- UEFA recently announced an expansion of the Champions League from 2024
- The move would see 36 teams compete for the trophy with 100 more matches
- Players such as Ilkay Gundogan claim the European schedule is already too busy
- Ceferin claims fewer matches would mean less money for Europe’s biggest clubs
Ceferin, speaking exclusively to The Mail on Sunday, says he will listen to all the voices critical of the expansion of the Champions League from 2024 — changes which were announced last Monday and which were a bid to head off any breakaways — but insisted the drive for more games and expanding the tournament to 36 teams came from the clubs, who take 93 per cent of all the money generated by UEFA’s European competitions.
He has also directly addressed points made by Klopp, Guardiola and Ilkay Gundogan last week, that the new proposals had too many games and that UEFA were just as greedy as the clubs, insisting that the changes can still be amended and that he is happy to reduce the number of games.
Alexander Ceferin has admitted he is open to fewer Champions League matches from 2024
UEFA announced an expansion of their premier competition to 36 teams and 100 more games
‘Some coaches and players said too many matches,’ said Ceferin. ‘There can always be less matches but also the salaries of the players and coaches have to adapt. You cannot generate less and earn more all the time.
‘I read some people saying: “We don’t want more matches.” I’m fine with that, really, I am. If the Champions League stays as it is, it will still be the best competition in the world.
‘Our reforms came about because clubs need help responding to the financial crisis. We can carry on as we are but clubs will go out of business. And who does that hurt most? Their fans.
‘So, while I understand what some people are saying, I’d ask them “What is your solution?” We believe the reforms we are making have advantages for everyone.
Figures such as Manchester City Ilkay Gundogan do not want more European matches at all
‘But we have been clear they are not fully set in stone so, if those people have better ideas that safeguard the future of football as well as ours, I will listen.’
UEFA’s main partner in driving the new changes was the European Club Association, which represents Europe’s elite clubs in negotiations with UEFA and which counted Juventus president Andrea Agnelli as chairman and had key roles for Ed Woodward of Manchester United and Vinai Venkatesham of Arsenal.
They resigned those ECA positions last week, anticipating they would not need that organisation any more.
The only English clubs now listed as ECA members are Aston Villa, Leicester, Newcastle and Everton and the Big Six now face being locked out of all the key decisions on the split of commercial rights and whether the number of games should be reduced.
Pep Guardiola (right) and Jurgen Klopp (left) complained about fixture congestion this term
Crucially, those six Premier League clubs will likely lose the change that would have benefited them most, which was the historic right to qualify for the Champions League for two teams, even if they finished outside the top four, the two being chosen on the basis of their European record over the past five years.
That could have helped teams such as Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool who may finish outside the top four this year.
Ceferin has pledged to re-engage with the reformed ECA, now headed by Paris Saint-Germain’s Nasser Al-Khelaifi.
Ceferin will speak to the European Club Association now headed by PSG’s Nasser Al-Khelafi
‘We can do anything we want but we will include the real football community, we will speak with the ECA, the leagues as before,’ he said. ‘But UEFA distributes almost 90 per cent of all its money to federations and clubs and, in club football, UEFA takes 6.5 per cent of the revenue generated — 93.5 per cent is taken by the clubs.
‘So, if we want to help the clubs in hard financial situation now we have to generate more. This system will generate much more. We are always ready to speak but the problem is that those clubs that now went out, they were pushing, negotiating with us knowing all the time they had [Super League plans].
‘I had information yesterday that they were discussing this for three years and this is unbelievable. Three years and you negotiate with UEFA!’