UEFA will be opening the door to the possibility of a Super League in the years to come if it does not scrap plans to award Champions League places based on past European performance, a fans’ chief has warned.
Two spots could be set aside in the new-look competition from 2024 for teams with the best co-efficient ranking, which is based on their results in Europe over the previous five seasons.
The two teams with the highest co-efficient score who finish immediately outside the regular Champions League qualification places would be eligible, under refined proposals presented by UEFA to members of the European Club Association last month.
A final decision will be taken by UEFA’s executive committee on May 10. But a year on from 12 clubs announcing they had formed their own Super League, fans have expressed concerns that big clubs’ interests still hold too much sway at UEFA.
Ronan Evain, the executive director of Football Supporters Europe, says the governing body must decide whether to appease Europe’s big clubs or play its role as a regulator.
“There’s obviously a contradiction between the collective action of last year (to block the Super League) and to protect the European model of sports, sporting integrity and sporting merit, and the principle of these coefficients,” he told the PA news agency on the one-year anniversary of the Super League launch.
“UEFA has to make a decision between appeasing big clubs and addressing their interests and concerns on one side, and stay true to what has been their position last year. They can’t get it both ways, it’s a choice between the two.”
UEFA’s executive committee did approve a new format, featuring 10 matches instead of the current six and which included the two co-efficient places, at a meeting on April 19 which was completely overshadowed by the Super League launch hours before.
The co-efficient proposal has been tweaked since then after concerns were raised by domestic leagues that teams could leapfrog over rivals with a lesser European pedigree into qualification spots, but Evain is surprised that, essentially, the same proposals are on the table now despite the opposition the Super League faced.
“Adopting the exact same reforms as last year, or with some cosmetic changes, certainly doesn’t send the right message,” he said.
“The decision is still unclear and it’s not too late for UEFA to make the right decision. And the right decision from a sporting integrity point of view is to scrap the co-efficient.
“Domestic performance should be the one and only criteria (for qualification).”
Asked whether he could envisage supporters protesting against the reforms, if passed as currently presented, he said: “It’s hard to tell. The risk of this reform is that it’s progressive, it’s opening the door to coefficient seats now and then God knows what happens in four years’ time. It’s death by a thousand cuts.
“That has been the strategy of the big clubs for years – gaining a little bit of terrain progressively. We would hope UEFA will put an end to this so that’s definitely off the table.”