Champions League: Uefa 'afraid' of big clubs, say European leagues

Real Madrid's Gareth Bale (right) and Atletico Madrid's Stefan Savic
Real Madrid's Gareth Bale (right) helped his side beat Atletico Madrid in last season's Champions League final

Uefa is helping powerful clubs turn the Champions League into a closed shop for super-rich teams because it is "afraid" of them, it has been claimed.

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL), which represents Europe's 24 domestic football leagues, fears national leagues will suffer.

It wants the governing body to scrap proposed changes to the competition.

EPFL head Lars-Christer Olsson said: "Uefa has gone to bed with a limited number of clubs."

Uefa made changes to its elite club competition to head off the supposed threat of a breakaway competition being formed by the big clubs

But Olsson, who was chief executive of European football's governing body from 2003 to 2007, added: "Uefa was afraid for no real reason.

"For the majority of clubs, domestic leagues are more important than international competitions and more important than a breakaway league."

Uefa last month agreed to changes to the competition format which set aside more places for teams from Europe's top leagues - Spain, England, Germany and Italy - at the expense of smaller leagues.

There will also be a revamp of how Champions League cash is distributed.

From 2018, a club's "individual coefficient" - how it has performed historically in European competition - will affect how much money it receives.

That will see established former winners being better rewarded.

The European Club Association, which represents the clubs, backed the changes.

But Olsson said Uefa had pushed through the amendments "without taking into account the wishes and needs of everyone else".

He added: "We are asking Uefa to revoke the current decision and start the process all over again."

The Swede also cited organisational changes he said would move European football towards "a franchise system based on North American models", likening it to the NFL or the NBA.

Scottish Professional Football League chief executive Neil Doncaster - an EPFL member - has described the Champions League changes as "regressive and protectionist".

"We risk an inexorable slide towards an NFL-style closed-shop system. Uefa has a duty to act on behalf of the entire game, not just a few, select clubs and leagues," he added.

Earlier, the EPFL board issued a statement that warned the changes would widen the gap between the richest clubs and the rest.

It has threatened to rip up an agreement with Uefa which stops domestic matches being played at the same time as Champions League and Europa League games.

That would leave domestic leagues free to schedule a full league programme directly against Champions League games.

Uefa rejected the EPFL's claims, pointing to a "wide-ranging" consultation including the leagues.

Acting general secretary Theodore Theodoridis said: "We are happy that the concepts of solidarity, fair competition, fair distribution and good governance remain at the core of European football."

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