21 April 2022

UEFA backs petition calling for the principles of sporting merit to be protected

21 April 2022

UEFA has endorsed a fans’ petition called ‘Win It On The Pitch’, despite continued speculation it plans to award places in the new-look Champions League to teams based on historic performance.

Representatives from European football’s governing body met with Football Supporters Europe this week, a year on from the collapse of the Super League.

UEFA expressed its support for the petition, called a European Citizens’ Initiative, which calls on the European Union to protect the principles of sporting merit, promotion and relegation.

A club like Arsenal could qualify for the new-look Champions League by finishing fifth in the Premier League if controversial coefficient proposals are approved next month (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Wire)

Those principles do not appear to be reflected in the idea to allow two clubs a place in the lucrative Champions League group phase based on their historic coefficient score from 2024, if they finish just outside the regular Champions League qualification spots.

However, sources have told the PA news agency that they believe UEFA could still drop the coefficient places, a move which would no doubt create a row with the European Club Association which supports their introduction. It is understood there remains some strong internal pushback within UEFA against the idea of granting the places.

UEFA general secretary Theodore Theodoridis said on Thursday: “Football belongs to its fans and they played a critical role in stopping last year’s shameless attempt by a few wealthy clubs to take it away.

“We applaud FSE for this European Citizens’ Initiative, which we fully encourage and support.”

Supporter protests, including one outside Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge last April, helped sink the Super League (Ian West/PA) (PA Archive)

UEFA’s executive committee is expected to make a final decision on the new format for European club competitions post-2024 on May 10 in Vienna.

The decision on coefficient places is a hugely controversial one. UEFA is under pressure on the one hand to keep onside the fans who helped sink the Super League, but on the other to keep Europe’s biggest clubs happy by providing a safety net.

Sources close to the ECA say that a failure to concede some ground to Europe’s commercial powerhouse clubs via the coefficient places risks reviving the threat of a Super League, while fans’ groups such as FSE argue that the granting of coefficient places means the new Champions League could ultimately morph into a Super League by another name.

FSE executive director Ronan Evain said on Thursday: “The Super League plot may have failed, but the fight is far from over.

“‘Win It On The Pitch’ is a simple way for ordinary citizens to demand the EU take action to secure the future of our most popular and played sport.

“It is more important than ever for all stakeholders to come together to protect clubs and competitions across the continent, as well as the principles on which our game should be based.”

Discussions on how revenues from Europe’s new-look club competitions are split are set to formally commence after the decision on formats is taken.

Competition revenues are projected to increase by almost 40 per cent in the next cycle between 2024 and 2027, to £3.8billion a season.

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