UEFA set to share Champions League control with clubs

Europe’s best soccer teams are expected to gain significant new powers to decide the business future of the Champions League, in what would be the the biggest change to the conduct of the competition for decades.

UEFA, the governing body of European football, is in advanced talks with the European Club Association, a group that represents more than 200 teams, on the creation of a joint venture that would control all media and football rights. sponsorship for competitions such as the Champions League and the lesser. Europa League, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

At the moment, these competitions are organized solely by UEFA, which annually distributes around 3.25 billion euros in prizes and television broadcasts to participating clubs. The Champions League is the biggest source of money.

The new model would represent a fundamental change in the way the main European competitions are governed. The talks are designed, in part, to avoid a $ 6 billion JPMorgan-backed alternative plan to launch a break away The European “Super League”, which is promoted by some big clubs such as Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.

According to those briefed on the talks, ECA wants governance to change alongside a plan to revamp the Champions League format from 2024, creating more matches between the top teams.

Ed Woodward, executive chairman of Manchester United, gave an indication of last month’s discussions, saying that with any change in format he expected “greater involvement of clubs in the governance and control of competitions” .

The changes would be the biggest since the European Cup, a knockout tournament featuring only national champions, was renamed in 1992 as the Champions League, a larger competition featuring more of the continent’s top teams.

Manchester United’s Ed Woodward says he expects “ greater involvement of clubs in the governance and control of competitions ” © Oli Scarff / AFP / Getty

As the competition became increasingly watched by hundreds of millions of fans around the world, clubs demanded more control over the money they help generate.

In 2017, a company called UCC SA was formed to enable ECA to advise UEFA on issues such as how best to sell television and sponsorship rights. However, the final decisions remain with UEFA.

The new model envisions either a new structure for UCC SA or an entirely new company, according to people briefed on the discussions. In both cases, the Court of Auditors would have a say in the terms of future commercial contracts.

Decisions on all sporting matters, such as the rules and format of the competitions, will remain with UEFA.

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The changes should allow clubs to participate in trade deals that will help them generate more revenue.

A person familiar with the talks said some teams wanted TV contracts that would allow them to watch replays of matches shortly after the final whistle or allow club sponsors to feature more prominently in stadiums during games. matches.

The new company could also serve as a vehicle for even more sweeping changes, those involved in the negotiations said. This includes development internet streaming services to watch the matches, rather than selling them to pay TV channels, or to allow private equity firms to invest in European competitions.

National leagues, such as the Italian Serie A, the German Bundesliga and the Spanish Liga are under discussion on sell a stake in their competitions to outside investors.

When asked if similar deals should be an option for the Champions League, Andrea Agnelli, President of the ECA and president of Italian Juventus, said last month: “The possibility of welcoming third-party investments. . . is not something that should be excluded. “

UEFA said: “Before each cycle of club competitions, [it] engages with stakeholders to determine how to maximize their success. ”

ECA said: “We are seeing a deeper partnership and alignment of interests. [with Uefa] as the way forward. “

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