European leagues oppose Champions League reforms

The team of Real Madrid pose with the trophy after the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid. (Luca Bruno/AP)

AMSTERDAM — The association of European football leagues strongly opposed the reform of the Champions League, saying on Thursday it will be detrimental to small clubs and wants UEFA’s next president to reconsider the changes adopted last month.

In a statement issued after a meeting of its board of directors, the EPFL accused UEFA of implementing the changes without the support of European domestic leagues.

UEFA decided last month to give additional guaranteed places in the group stage of the Champions League to the four highest-ranked leagues. Spain, Germany, England and Italy will each get four slots from the 2018-19 season.

UEFA also promised that annual prize money to the 32 group-stage teams — worth 1.32 billion euros ($1.49 billion) this season — will be "increased significantly" for the three seasons through 2021.

In other changes, Europa League winners will automatically qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stage from 2018. Currently, the winner can be made to qualify through the playoffs.

"The European Leagues believe the way this process has been conducted by UEFA to be unacceptable for an organization that claims to be the governing body of football in Europe," the EPFL said. "A major change in European football has been announced without the support and consensus of the organizers of domestic league football in Europe. 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."

The EPFL accused UEFA of breaching the Memorandum of Understanding between the two organizations and threatened to let European leagues to schedule their matches "as they see fit, including on the same days and at the same kick-off times as UEFA club competitions."

The UEFA presidential election between UEFA vice-president Michael van Praag of the Netherlands and Slovenian soccer federation leader Aleksander Ceferin will take place next week in Athens.

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