Neil Doncaster: Champions League 'closed-shop' warning

Celtic duo Scott Brown and Leigh Griffiths
Celtic are in the group stage of this season's Champions League

Champions League changes are "regressive and protectionist", says Scottish Professional Football League chief executive Neil Doncaster.

Europe's top four domestic leagues are to be guaranteed four places each in the group stage from 2018-19.

The European Professional Football Leagues body is accusing Uefa of breaching the terms of the deal that governs European club competitions.

And Doncaster warned of a "harmful fragmentation of the game".

The current top four leagues in Uefa's rankings are Spain, Germany, England and Italy.

Uefa, which controls the Champions League, says the Europa League winners will also qualify for the Champions League group stage under the new system.

The champions route, which Celtic used to qualify for this season's group stage, will be reduced from five to four teams.

The EPFL say the reforms were "without the support and consensus" from domestic leagues.

Doncaster, who attended the EPFL meeting in Amsterdam said: "Notwithstanding the welcome retention of a route to the Champions League for the SPFL Premiership winners, we absolutely share the EPFL's disappointment about the regressive and protectionist direction of travel for the world's most prestigious club competition.

"There needs to be a far stronger balance between sporting merit and commercial pressures, otherwise we risk an inexorable slide towards an NFL-style closed-shop system.

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster
Doncaster has misgivings about the changes being made to Uefa's flagship tournament

"We know that many of our counterparts in other countries share our concerns about the nature of the decision-making process and the lack of consultation with European leagues.

"Uefa has a duty to act on behalf of the entire game, not just a few, select clubs and leagues and it must take that duty far more seriously if it is not to risk presiding over a harmful fragmentation of the game.

"We will continue to be robust and forthright when required in fighting to protect the best interests of Scottish football on this issue, with today a strong demonstration that the majority of other European leagues share our view."

The EPFL board earlier stated: "This decision will have a detrimental impact on domestic competitions and will lead to an exponential growth in the financial and sporting gap between the biggest clubs in Europe and all the others."

However, Uefa rejected that accusation, with general secretary Theodore Theodoridis responding: "The evolution of Uefa's club competitions is the result of a wide-ranging consultative process involving all European football's stakeholders, including the European Professional Leagues, and taking into account a wide range of expertise and perspectives.

"The amendments made will continue to ensure qualification based on sporting merit, and the right of all associations and their clubs to compete in Europe's elite club competitions."

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