Arsenal fans join forces with fellow supporters to raise concerns over new Champions League format

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Simon Collings
·3-min read
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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Arsenal supporters’ groups have accused their own club of being involved in a “blatant power grab”, amid plans to reform the Champions League.

In an open letter to the European Club Association (ECA) board, which Arsenal sit on, Gunners’ fans have joined forces with supporters of other clubs to voice their concerns about the future of European football.

UEFA is planning to increase the number of Champions League matches from 125 to 225 in 2024 as part of a new model that would see the current group phase scrapped.

The competition would instead be expanded to a 36-team league, with each side playing 10 matches on a seeded basis, the so-called ‘Swiss model’.

Fans are up in arms about the changes and, ahead of an ECA meeting on Friday to discuss whether it can sign off the new proposals, several supporters grousp have come together to pen an open letter.

17 fans’ groups from 14 clubs - including the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust and Arsenal Independent Supporters’ Trust - have signed an open letter to the ECA’s chairman Andrea Agnelli.

The letter reads: “We are writing to you on behalf of (fans) across the continent who you have chosen to ignore in your attempt to take over European football.

“Your plans to restructure the Champions League by increasing the number of games, introducing qualification based on past achievements, and monopolising commercial rights present a serious threat to the entire game.”

The letter continued: “Instead of realising your supposed goal of ‘building a successful, sustainable, and socially responsible football industry’, you will only make the gap between the rich and the rest bigger, wreck domestic calendars, and expect fans to sacrifice yet more time and money.

“All for the benefit of whom? A handful of already wealthy clubs, investment firms, and sovereign funds, none of which have the legitimacy to decide how football should be run. Even most ECA members stand to lose out from the proposed reforms.

“Such a blatant power grab would be indefensible at the best of times, but at the height of a global pandemic, it is nothing more than crisis profiteering – not to mention a stark contrast to the solidarity displayed by fans.”

The ECA board meeting will be followed later on Friday by a gathering of UEFA’s club competitions committee.

The committee is dominated by ECA representatives, who, from a Premier League perspective, include Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and Manchester City chief executive Ferran Soriano.

PA
PA

Only approval from that committee will enable UEFA’s ultimate ruling body, the executive committee, to rubber-stamp the new Champions League format on Monday.

The fans’ letter, also signed by the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust, warned that clubs were not listening to what fans truly wanted.

“Over the past year, we have supported our clubs unconditionally, buying season tickets with no hope of attending games, and paying for TV subscriptions to watch repetitive ties held in empty, soulless stadiums, all while you were working behind the scenes to find new ways to bleed us dry,” it read.

“But we do not have the time or money to invest in your fantasies or fund your insatiable greed. And in the end, we are your business model.

“Despite the expectations of some, there is no ‘fan of tomorrow’ waiting to come off the bench to rescue your plans.”

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