A major row is brewing between the biggest clubs in European football and the hundreds of others across the continent over the disparity in revenue distribution from Uefa competitions.
And Manchester United are digging their heels in to maintain the status quo.
Changes are due to come into effect in two years. The current cycle runs from 2021 to 2024.
The European Leagues group, which represents more than 1,000 clubs in 37 professional leagues, released data revealing that £2.3bn of the £2.95bn annual income from Uefa competitions from the current 2021-24 cycle went to 96 clubs, with only £143.7m split among the remaining 750.
Revenues from 2024 to 2027 are predicted to reach around £4.1bn per year and those pushing for fairer distribution, including the European Leagues, warn that failure to address the current imbalance will destroy competitive balance in domestic leagues and competitions.
That would, it is feared, make it even harder for other clubs to qualify for the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League in future.
The stark figures were presented at a meeting of the Club Advisory Platform – attended by more than 400 football figures from 37 countries covering 240 clubs, 32 leagues and officials from Fifa and Uefa – in Amsterdam recently.
Jacco Swart, managing director of the European Leagues, gave the presentation in which he urged clubs to join forces to resist attempts by the small group of Europe’s biggest clubs to further cement their dominance by refusing to share income from Uefa competitions.
A “conclusions” report from the meeting stated that “the influence of Uefa club competitions [UCC] on the future of domestic competitions is growing, and not in the right direction unfortunately. Domestic competitive balance is being further disrupted and undermined. Not only financially, but also sportingly and organisationally.
“Given what is at stake, joint action is needed. If nothing changes, financial and sporting polarisation will continue to grow, resulting in more and more clubs and competitions suffering negative consequences.
“To defend and protect the interests of all domestic competitions and clubs in Europe, meaningful and potentially drastic changes in the UCC’s distribution model for post 2024 are required. Clubs and domestic leagues together, have their own individual responsibility to redistribute centralised revenues, in such a way that it contributes to having exciting domestic competitions at all professional levels. The international club competitions must support and encourage these goals, not make them harder to achieve.”
It is hoped that the Club Advisory Platform can be used to bring clubs together to resist Europe’s biggest clubs pushing for a larger cut of revenues.
But Manchester United’s chief financial officer, Cliff Baty, has argued that the reason revenues are increasing is due to the lure of Europe’s most lucrative clubs.
“One thing I would say from our perspective is that (the split) gives us a degree of certainty that helps in terms of sustainability, and all the discussions that are happening around financial sustainability and financial fair play in football,” he said. “If you take that away, it’s going to increase the volatility and it’s going to be more difficult for us to manage.
“And whilst I appreciate the sentiment of wanting to give more money (to smaller clubs and those outside European competition) the pie is getting bigger – (and) the reason the broadcasters are paying that much money is for the product, frankly at the Champions League level.”
Manchester United finished sixth in the Premier League last season and will play in the Europa League next campaign.
Baty added: “If you’re changing the distribution and wanting more money, I think you’ve got to be careful. We all know where the value is created, let’s not kid ourselves.
“I think we should put more money down, I totally agree with the sentiment, but the value is created at the top.
“So if you start changing that, and making it more difficult for the bigger clubs to perform, it’s hard.”
It is thought that formal discussions will begin on the distribution of finances from Uefa competitions in Autumn and continue into next year.
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