By Brian Homewood
FRANKFURT, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Detailed proposals aimed at reducing the financial gulf between the continent’s richest clubs and the rest were put forward by the European Leagues group (EL) on Friday.
The umbrella group representing Europe’s domestic football leagues said it wanted to reverse some of the changes which were introduced to European club competition this year and distribute revenue from those competitions more evenly.
However, it said it supported UEFA’s plans to introduce a new third tier European competition, with 32 teams in the group stage and reduce the size of the second-tier Europa League from 2021.
“Our fundamental principle is to improve competitive balance in domestic and international competitions to protect the unpredictability of sporting results,” Eredivisie — Dutch League — chairman Jacco Swart told reporters.
However, officials said it was not realistic to return to the days when teams such as Ajax Amsterdam, Porto and Red Star Belgrade were crowned European champions.
“It is a question of going forward in time, not looking backwards, and of having attractive tournaments,” said Claus Thomssen, chief executive of the Danish league.
The EL said it hopes UEFA will consider its proposals when it decides of the format for European competitions in the 2021-24 cycle, a decision expected in December.
The Champions League is dominated by a handful of elite clubs and the group stage has been marked by increasingly one-sided matches in the last few years.
EL general secretary Georg Pangl said that in the last 26 years, a total of 15 billion euros ($17.2 billion) in revenue had been handed out, with 14 clubs receiving 7 billion of that amount.
It was projected that 12 billion euros will be distributed over the next six years and, under the current model, another seven billion would go to the 14 top-ranked clubs, Pangl added.
In its proposal, the EL said it wanted to reverse a change introduced this year which guarantees four Champions League group stage slots to Europe’s top four leagues — currently England, Spain, Germany and Italy.
This should be reduced to three places, at most, plus one playoff place each, the EL said.
It also wanted to undo a rule that revenue distribution is partly distributed according to a club’s historical record - something which favours big clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan.
A further suggestion was that at least 36 national champions were involved in the group stages of European competitions.
Swart said the EL were opposed to any increase in the number of dates allocated to UEFA club matches or for them to be played at weekends, apart from the Champions League final.
Andrea Agnelli, the head of the powerful association representing European clubs, suggested this year that the continent’s top teams should play more European games and fewer domestic ones. (Writing by Brian Homewood; editing by Martyn Herman and Ed Osmond)