European leagues, fans team up to lobby for domestic soccer

National Sports

GENEVA (AP)Two Europe-wide fan groups that work with UEFA have teamed with national leagues aiming to lobby more effectively against projects they believe threaten domestic soccer.

Their cooperation deal announced Thursday follows turmoil caused by the club-led Super League project and a fresh FIFA vs. Europe dispute over the global soccer body pushing to stage the World Cup every two years instead of four.

The fan representatives – Football Supporters Europe (FSE) and Supporter Direct Europe – and the 31-nation European Leagues group are arguing for ”appropriate involvement” in decision-making and how soccer is run.

”Fans and leagues share common principles and we now want to put them into action in specific projects and activities,” SD Europe chief executive Antonia Hagemann said in a joint statement by the three organizations.

European Leagues managing director Jacco Swart said the move was a ”natural step to converge and work together to protect domestic football.”

Though leagues and fans have helped UEFA in opposing the Super League and biennial World Cup proposal, they disagree with some Champions League changes set to take effect in 2024.

Those include UEFA giving two wild-card entries to clubs based on a 10-year record of results in European competitions.

”The parties acknowledge the importance of competitive domestic competitions in full capacity stadiums with home and away fans, with sporting merit as the primary driver for success,” the joint statement said.

Fans and leagues also want UEFA to abolish using a league table of clubs’ historical records to allocate 30% of Champions League prize money – worth 600 million euros ($688 million) this season. It guarantees top-ranked Real Madrid 36.4 million euros ($41.8 million) while No. 32-ranked Sheriff gets only 1.14 million euros ($1.3 million) from it. Sheriff beat Madrid 2-1 in September.

UEFA also agreed in April to add four clubs to the Champions League in 2024 and give them 10 guaranteed games instead of six, despite FSE opposition to the extra cost in money and time for fans.

FSE, which is formally recognized by UEFA as ”one of its key stakeholders,” has said the extra games were a power grab by wealthy clubs.

In their statement Thursday, the leagues and fans said UEFA and FIFA allowing international competitions to expand too much ”will distort the competitive balance of leagues and the health of domestic football.”

The decision-making UEFA executive committee has two seats for club delegates – currently Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser al-Khelaifi and Bayern Munich’s Karl-Heinz Rummenigge – and just one for the leagues, who send Javier Tebas of Spain. Fans are not represented.

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