New-look Champions League will ‘devastate’ English domestic game – Steve Parish

Jamie Gardner, PA Chief Sports Reporter
·4-min read

A new-look Champions League will tear apart the fabric of the English domestic game and is part of a “never-ending creep” towards a European super league, according to Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish.

UEFA has proposed an increase of 100 matches in the competition and four extra matchdays from 2024, which Parish and EFL chairman Rick Parry fear would kill off the League Cup.

Parish spoke out at a clubs advisory platform meeting of the European Leagues group on Wednesday.

  • One 36-team league to replace current eight groups of four

  • Each team to play 10 matches - five home, five away - in a seeded 'Swiss system'

  • The top eight to automatically qualify for the last 16 knockouts, places nine to 24 to play off for the remaining eight slots

“We seem to be expected to accept these proposals because they are not as bad as they could have been and, whilst I congratulate particularly this body in working to remove many of the excesses, I can’t quite buy into that thinking that we should be ever so grateful that it’s only an extra 100 games,” he said.

“This would have a quite devastating effect on domestic competition in England. This proposal will probably see the end of the League Cup in its entirety or reduced to some kind of youth competition.”

UEFA controversially proposes to grant two of the extra four places in the new-look Champions League group phase to clubs based on historical co-efficient. This would effectively provide a safety net to big clubs in the event of a poor domestic season, as long as they have done enough to qualify for either the Europa League or the Europa Conference League.

Parish added: “The creep is never-ending. We are seeing with the co-efficient and the calendar principles that are being attempted to be ingrained so that next time things can be changed even more and domestic competition in the end takes a secondary seat to a European super league.

“With the assault on the calendar we are talking about a transfer of value from domestic leagues to European competition and I think it’s very concerning.”

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said last year it would be “better for everyone” if the League Cup was scrapped, while European Club Association chairman Andrea Agnelli suggested earlier this week that one way to avoid calendar congestion was for 20-team leagues such as the Premier League to reduce in size.

Parry said the proposals posed a “major threat” to the League Cup, and by extension to EFL clubs who he estimated would lose out on a third of current revenue if the competition was substantially altered.

UEFA proposes that the four extra rounds in the Champions League occupy ‘exclusive’ midweek slots in addition to those currently held, something Parry also took exception to.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has advocated the scrapping of the League Cup
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has advocated the scrapping of the League Cup (Niall Carson/PA).

“We have a healthy diet of midweek games and, by extending exclusivity, UEFA is not creating competition between itself and domestic leagues, it’s abusing a dominant position,” he said.

European Leagues is preparing to push back against a number of aspects of UEFA’s ‘Horizon 2024’ plan, which has the backing of the influential ECA.

European Leagues wants to cut the additional games from four to two, to change the access plan so that three of the places are given to domestic champions who do not currently qualify for the group stage automatically and to keep the cap on the number of clubs from one single country who can qualify at five.

It is also opposed to the idea that a financial settlement for the new competition can be agreed after consensus has been reached on the format – its president Lars-Christer Olsson, a former UEFA chief executive, is adamant that must be negotiated at the same time.

European Leagues wants a higher percentage of solidarity revenue to go to non-participating clubs – UEFA is currently proposing to keep that at four per cent – and for more of the overall revenue to be fed down to the Europa and Conference Leagues.

There is a fear that, with UEFA and the big clubs as represented by the ECA in agreement on the plan, the smaller clubs and leagues could be ignored.

Olsson called on the small to medium-sized associations who helped put Ceferin and other members of the executive committee into power to speak up and become more active.

“They could be essential for the UEFA president and for members of the executive committee in the coming elections. But they have not been as active as they should have been for some years,” he said.