The Guardian recently published an article by Charlie Marshall, the CEO of the European Club Association (ECA), headlined: “European Club Association is being cast as an evil elite killing football. What nonsense.” While I appreciate the opportunity to engage in a discussion about the future of European football, I must express my strong disagreement with Marshall’s assertions. It is imperative to set the record straight and shed light on the true nature of ECA’s actions and the distortions it has caused within the football landscape.
Marshall accuses me of promoting a false narrative regarding the ECA’s influence on Uefa. However, the truth is that the ECA has been gradually orchestrating a silent coup within the European football governance structure. This slow-moving coup is designed to empower the continent’s largest clubs, enabling them to exert greater control over the sport. Marshall conveniently highlights various clubs in his article, without recognising that they are, in fact, the dominant forces within their respective countries. The financial windfall from European competitions has led to significant distortions within their domestic leagues.
We also should not forget that Marshall was at the ECA in 2019 when it presented an early version of the super league project together with Uefa. Fortunately Uefa realised that it would destroy football after a revolt among clubs and in the media, but Marshall has little credibility when it comes to the future of European football.
Furthermore, it is essential to call out the democratic deficit within the ECA, a crucial point that Marshall conveniently glosses over. Of the 330 clubs holding a right to vote, only 140 possess full voting rights, while the remaining 190 have their voting power significantly limited. This disparity in voting rights showcases the undemocratic nature of the ECA, where a minority of clubs holds a disproportionate amount of influence and decision-making power. Such an imbalance undermines the principles of fairness, transparency, and inclusivity that should be the bedrock of any representative organisation.
By downplaying the significance of this democratic deficit, Marshall fails to address the concerns raised by many stakeholders within European football. The concentration of power in the hands of a select few clubs not only perpetuates existing inequalities but also stifles the voices and aspirations of other clubs. It is imperative that we acknowledge and rectify this issue to ensure a more equitable and democratic future for European football, which is why I support the nascent Union of European Clubs.
The ECA is intensifying the influence of Europe’s biggest clubs while disregarding the interests of aspirational clubs. The lack of a genuine democratic framework within the ECA further exacerbates this issue. To strengthen European football, we must prioritise the domestic leagues as the foundation of the European football pyramid and ensure that Uefa funds flow more equitably to support aspirational clubs. Only through a fair, inclusive and democratic approach can we restore balance and safeguard the future of the beautiful game.
Javier Tebas is the president of La Liga