European leagues threaten UEFA match clashes

London (AFP) – European leagues could be encouraged to engineer fixture clashes with the Champions League over contentious changes to the competition, the European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) threatened on Wednesday.

UEFA has angered the continent’s small and medium-sized leagues by guaranteeing England, Spain, Germany and Italy four Champions League slots between 2018 and 2021.

EPFL believes Europe’s governing body has broken an agreement to avoid clashes between UEFA matches and domestic games.

“This is why we’re reacting as we are now,” EPFL president Lars-Christer Olsson, whose organisation represents the European leagues, said at the Leaders Sport Business summit in London.

“They (UEFA) are setting all the conditions for a private, closed league in the future.

“In my opinion UEFA has forced EPFL to act because UEFA has broken the agreement. We were not at all consulted.

“The process has not only been wrong, it has been slow. We have to come to a conclusion fairly soon for the best solution for European football and that can only be made by talking to each other.”

However, Olsson said clubs who had qualified for the Champions League would not be forced to choose between fulfilling fixtures in the competition and playing league matches.

“We would not create problems for our own clubs because that would not be sensible,” he said. “We are reasonably well-educated.”

Scottish Professional Football League chief executive Neil Doncaster, appearing alongside Olsson, said countries such as Scotland could be seriously harmed by the new agreement.

“It threatens the very future of very top-level football,” Doncaster said.

“It is important to be a domestic champion club — that is the same across Europe. It is about access to the top-tier of European competitive football with the other champions of European football.

“Remove that and you fundamentally remove what is important about being a champion in a domestic contest. You would damage irreversibly the mid-level domestic leagues.”

Doncaster’s words were echoed by Karren Brady, vice-chairwoman of English Premier League club West Ham United.

“Competition and merit is important,” she said. “When you pick who plays, you lose the integrity of the sport.”

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