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Soccer-European leagues aim more criticism at Champions League reform
March 31, 2017 / 2:02 PM / 6 months ago

Soccer-European leagues aim more criticism at Champions League reform

* “Serious concerns” raised about upcoming UEFA reforms

* Agreement to avoid match clashes expires

* EPFL to hold extraordinary general assembly June 6

LISBON, March 31 (Reuters) - Europe’s professional football leagues have said that upcoming changes to the Champions League will upset the competitive balance of domestic competitions and harm the development of professional football.

The EPFL umbrella organisation, which represents 24 of Europe’s national leagues, confirmed it ended an agreement with UEFA aimed at avoiding fixture clashes between domestic and European games following a decision announced in October.

EPFL president Lars-Christen Olsson also said that the growing finiancial gap between the biggest clubs and the rest was “one of the most important issues in European professional club football, at least for the last 10 to 20 years.”

“What is happening is a real impact on the domestic competitions,” he said after an EPFL meeting in Porto.

European soccer body UEFA last year announced reforms to the Champions League, guaranteeing four places each in the lucrative group stage to the four biggest leagues, effectively England, Spain, Germany and Italy. At the same time, the number of slots available for smaller clubs was cut.

UEFA said “financial distribution to clubs will be increased significantly” for both competitions, with the changes coming into effect from the 2018-19 season.

In a statement on Friday, EPFL said that it had “serious concerns” over the reforms which would have a “detrimental impact on the competitive balance of domestic competitions and on the development of professional football as a whole.”

The agreement between UEFA and EPFL aimed at avoiding match clashes expired on March 15.

“This will give all European Leagues total freedom to schedule their matches as they see fit – including on the same days and at the same kick-off times as UEFA club competitions,” EPFL said the statement.

Clubs which take part in the Champions and Europa Leagues receive generous payments and bonuses by UEFA but critics say that gives them a huge advantage over domestic rivals who do not qualify for Europe.

It also creates a snowball effect as the more teams take part in European football, the more the financial gap increases.

FC Basel won the Swiss title seven times in a row, Olympiakos took 18 of the last 20 Greek titles, Dinamo Zagreb secured the last 11 in Croatia and BATE Borisov the last 11 in Belarus.

The EPFL said it would hold an extraordinary general assembly in Geneva on June 6 “due to these extraordinary circumstances.” (Writing by Brian Homewood in Zurich; Editing by Julia Glover)

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