February 26, 2018 / 10:39 AM / 4 months ago

UEFA President will fight tooth and nail to restore balance

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin will fight tooth and nail to restore competitive balance to European club football, he told the European soccer ruling body’s annual Congress on Monday.

FILE PHOTO - Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) President Aleksander Ceferin speaks during a news conference about a charity football match at the U.N. headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland February 13, 2018. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy

He said, however, that he could not promise a return to the days when teams from Eastern Europe could dream of winning the flagship Champions League competition.

European club football has become increasingly dominated by a handful of elite clubs and the Champions League has included some embarrassingly one-sided matches this season.

The round of 16 first-leg ties played this month featured 5-0 wins for Bayern Munich and Liverpool against Besiktas and Porto respectively and a 4-0 win for Manchester City at Basel.

“We must dare to rethink our models, in particular to establish greater competitive balance, one of the greatest challenges facing the future and present of football,” Ceferin said.

“The club game still requires our serious attention. We must dream big but I cannot promise you the moon because I am not a merchant of dreams and I am not a politician.

“I will fight tooth and nail to introduce measures which restore some balance but I cannot claim that this will result in a club such as Steaua Bucharest or Red Star Belgrade being next to have their name engraved on Champions League trophy.”

Both clubs won the old European Cup in 1986 and 1991 respectively.

“UEFA is not a bank, Switzerland has enough banks already.....What is the point in generating record-breaking revenues, if it is just an accumulation of wealth?,” Ceferin said.

He also warned of competition from esports.

“We face competition from other sports and other activities that capture the imagination of the next generation,” he said.

“Esports and video games are all our competitors, the world our youngsters inhabit is as virtual as it is global. We would be naive not to notice that.”

UEFA announced an increase in appearance and prize money for the Euro 2020 tournament.

Each for the 24 participants will receive 9.25 million euros (8.12 million pounds) plus 1.5 million euros for each win and 750,000 euros for a draw.

The teams who reach the round of 16 will receive another two million euros each with a further 3.25 million for the eight quarter-finalists and 5 million euros more for reaching the semi-finals.

The champions will receive another 10 million euros and the runners-up seven million.

Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond

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