Expanding the Champions League will threaten the FA Cup and widen the ‘obscene’ divide between the richest clubs and the rest in English football, argue Gary Neville and David Bernstein.
Sky TV pundit Neville and former FA Chairman Bernstein have spoken out on controversial UEFA proposals to increase the number of teams in the league from 32 to 36 and increase the number of games by 100.
Their campaign group, Saving the Beautiful Game, has analyzed UEFA plans, which they claim will simply benefit the biggest clubs and make it harder for aspiring teams to reach the top.
Clubs with a recent history of European success could have a protected route to competition
[The proposals will] accentuating and anchoring the deep financial inequality that already exists in our game, ‘the group said in a statement.
“The gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ will widen as the broadcasting rights go even more to the very best clubs.”
Former FA chairman David Bernstein has given a stark assessment of how football is run
The powerful group, which also includes former sports minister and Conservative MP Helen Grant and former FA Executive Director David Davies, say the proposed Champions League reforms are “ anti-competitive ” and will undermine English football.
And they see it as further evidence of the need for an independent regulator of the national game – a case they have taken to Secretary of Culture Oliver Dowden.
“By common agreement, it is difficult to see how our existing football calendar could survive in England,” the group said.
Threats to the existence of both the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup as we know it would be very real.
How could such a development not diminish the experience of the vast majority of football fans in England?
The Champions League plans, as currently proposed, would require four new weeks of competition for the Champions League, with group matches to last until January.
According to UEFA’s proposals, the Champions League would be expanded with four teams and 100 matches
Gary Neville (right) has urged Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden (left) to hurry up and consider football governance reform by organizing the promised ‘fan-led review’.
In addition to the scope of the proposed competition, which will run from 2024, Neville, Bernstein and Co also object to the protected access promised to the most powerful clubs.
Set to be decided next month at a UEFA board meeting chaired by President Aleksander Ceferin, clubs with a history of European success could be boosted from the Europa League to the much more lucrative Champions League.
Three of the four additional places would be allocated based on UEFA coefficients, with two going to clubs finishing in the highest ranking Europe spot and one to the winner of a European league with the highest ranking, which is often the case. Ajax.
The reform group Saving the Beautiful Game wants an independent football regulator
The last place would be assigned to the fifth-ranked country, which is France.
The Champions League proposals have been widely endorsed by the European Club Association.
But they have also been criticized by many smaller and medium-sized clubs, who are also concerned that they and their national leagues will be marginalized if the plans are approved.
A major concern is that the expanded Champions League will bring in more broadcast revenue, while offers for the Premier League and EFl, as well as competitions across Europe, will decline.
Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish raised objections to the plans at a European meeting
Aleksander Ceferin, president of UEFA, will chair the meeting when a decision has been taken
At a recent meeting of the European Leagues Association, Crystal Palace Chairman Steve Parish, Aston Villa CEO Christian Purslow and EFL Chairman Rick Parry all spoke out against the plans.
But Neville and Bernstein are concerned that in these ‘seismic’ debates there isn’t one coherent voice representing English football, and they accuse the FA of being silent.
“It’s hard to think of a better example, echoing the fact that football couldn’t speak with one voice during the pandemic, why the game urgently needs a truly independent regulator,” the group said.
Speak with authority on the seismic issues affecting our national sport. Stand up for the interests of the entire game on ALL levels. To bring fairness and sustainability to football in our country. ‘