UEFA was scared of big clubs, says leagues' boss

Thu Sep 8, 2016 2:26pm EDT
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By Brian Homewood

ZURICH (Reuters) - UEFA was unnecessarily scared of the big clubs when it negotiated with them over the Champions League's format, the head of the organization representing Europe's domestic football leagues said on Thursday.

UEFA announced significant changes to the Champions League last month, with more group stage places set aside for teams from the top four leagues -- effectively Spain, England, Germany and Italy -- and fewer for teams from smaller leagues.

The changes staved off the threat that a breakaway Super League independent of UEFA could be created by the big clubs, a possibility which sources said had been discussed at private meetings.

However, Lars-Christer Olsson, president of EPFL umbrella group for 24 European domestic football leagues, said UEFA had over-estimated the breakaway threat and denied that the clubs were united in agreeing to the change.

"UEFA has gone to bed with a limited number of clubs without taking into account the wishes and needs of everyone else," said Olsson, who was UEFA chief executive from 2003 to 2007.

"I think UEFA was afraid for no real reason," said the Swede in a telephone interview from Amsterdam, where he chaired an EPFL meeting.

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

Sponsors would also shy away if there was a split, he added.   Continued...

The UEFA logo is seen before the draw ceremony for the 2016/2017 Champions League Cup soccer competition at Monaco's Grimaldi Forum in Monaco August 25, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard