European clubs deny Champions League changes favour wealthy

Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)

ATHENS, Greece — Champions League changes won’t favour the wealthiest clubs on the continent, according to European Club Association chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

More than 150 members of the ECA met Tuesday with senior UEFA officials and tried to alter the perception that reforms will make rich clubs richer, and poor clubs poorer.

"I would call it really fake news," said Rummenigge, the Bayern Munich chairman, adding that clubs from mid-ranked countries like the Netherlands get the best deal. "That has to be clarified (and) will correct the opinion of last August."

The key change in the Champions League seasons from 2018-21 is a guarantee of four group-stage places to each of the top four countries — currently Spain, Germany, England and Italy — ranked by UEFA for their clubs’ results in its competitions.

Prize money in each of those seasons should increase "significantly," UEFA has said, above the 1.32 billion euros ($1.43 billion) shared among 32 group-stage clubs this season.

Echoing a point made by UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin last week, Rummenigge said TV deals in the big five nations — also including France — provided 86 per cent of Champions League income, but clubs in those countries take only 60 per cent of the prize money.

"Very often things are not communicated in the right way," Rummenigge said, insisting that his members drawn from 53 UEFA member federations were satisfied with Champions League reforms.

The big four nations’ quota of 16 of 32 places in the groups next year, avoiding an August playoff round, will rise from 11 guaranteed slots this year. The knock-on effect will likely bump down the Czech and Swiss champions into qualifying rounds.

Clubs with a history of winning European trophies will also get a more favourable seeding, and potentially a bigger share of prize money.

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