Despite Super League revolt, UEFA reforms help rich get richer
In the best hotels of the Champions League final weekend, one can feel that the game itself is just a brief and pleasant diversion from the real task of sharing the game’s loot. European elite: whoever holds power controls money.
Never again in Porto this weekend, just over a month since the European Super League insurgency and some of the reputations involved still being swept away on the battlefield. On Saturday evening, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin and his General Secretary Theodore Theodoridis were happy to be seen having a private conversation with Bayern Munich President Karl-Heinz Rummenigge on a sofa in the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel.
The German has been on the safe side recently, when it comes to UEFA, although in 2018 when the first Super League reports surfaced, Bayern have been described as being considerably more enthusiastic. The splenic response of their fans then informed their caution this time around and thus they avoided the humiliation that befell others. For now, Rummenigge and Ceferin must feel like friends. Bayern have remained loyal and for now UEFA has the upper hand in shaping the future of the competition with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus still on the outside. Yet power and influence change rapidly with new alliances.
What will the Champions League look like next year? Following another momentous competition which saw fans return to the stadium for a final between two English clubs, the way UEFA shares its vast income changes next season. While the embers of the Super League rebellion are still blinking, the effects of this move can easily be forgotten.
In the weeks leading up to the brief Super League putsch in April, the analysis of European Leagues (EL), the body representing domestic European leagues, including the Premier League and Football League, shaped that future. It was presented by Lars-Christer Olsson of Sweden, then president of EL and fierce opponent of the expansionist ambitions of the elite. The results have been startling.
The change in income distribution means that much greater importance will be placed on the UEFA coefficient – a lackluster way of saying that the better a club’s historical performance, the more cake it takes. Or to put it even more simplistically, the rich get richer.
Take the example of Barcelona and Ajax – the former Champions League giant of the past two decades with five titles in total and four since 2006. The Dutch club were a big European Cup club from the 1970s. and won a Champions League from 1995, but not the recent success. to increase their coefficient. Based on their respective performances in the 2018-2019 competition – in which both reached the Champions League semi-finals – under next season’s rules, Barcelona would earn € 40m more than the Ajax.
This would include a payment of 35 million euros for the Catalan club for its coefficient rating – historic performance – against 19 million euros in this category for Ajax. The market pool payout, which is based on the size of each country’s broadcast deal with UEFA, would allow Barcelona to overtake Ajax by € 23m to € 1m. The two clubs’ starting costs of € 16m would be the same and their performance costs would be close: an additional € 2m for Barcelona’s slightly higher group stage record, taking it to € 47m against 45 million euros for Ajax. But overall, Barcelona are said to earn € 121m compared to € 81m for Ajax.
As a sports competition, all play by the same rules. As a financial distribution mechanism, there are huge disparities.
Thirty percent of the overall Champions League revenue will be distributed to clubs next season according to the UEFA coefficient. It’s the same share – 30 percent – attributed to their performance. Market share – a club’s national television deal with UEFA – dictates 15% of revenue and the rest, 25%, is shared equally.
It is a model which should have an effect throughout the hierarchy and which will play out in national leagues across Europe. For example, based on their respective 2018-2019 Champions League campaigns, as part of the proposed new income distribution, CSKA Moscow would earn 15 million euros on their UEFA coefficient, compared to only 5 million euros. in this category for its historically less important neighbors, the Lokomotiv. . For domestic competitors, in leagues across Europe, it makes a big difference.
If Leicester City had qualified for the Champions League next season, their winning coefficient would have been much lower than Premier League regulars in this competition. These big income differences also extend to the Europa League where the numbers aren’t that big, but the effect on competition in the smaller, less affluent domestic leagues would be just as profound.
Why such a large share of income distributed according to the UEFA coefficient? It has been modified at the request of Spanish, Italian and German clubs to reduce the percentage distributed according to the market. This is because UEFA’s deal with BT Sport is by far the biggest individual contract and therefore ensured a bigger payout for Premier League clubs. By decreasing its importance in the calculation, therefore, they reduced the amount of payments to rivals in the Premier League
It’s the Champions League next season, already a competition that feels ready to offer a greater reward to established powers and we haven’t reached 2024 when it gets rewritten again. The model that preceded the Super League storm included these infamous two coefficient spots for the new 36-team competition – a safety net to boost underperforming elite clubs. We talk a lot about this delisting now, UEFA no longer needs to appease the big clubs. As it stands, it is still on the table.
Much more was compelling in the report from Olsson, a former UEFA general manager and insightful critic of inequalities in top European football. For the period 2014-2018, research has shown that 72 different clubs have won national titles across Europe, compared to 84 for 1992-1998. The same periods saw an increase in the average number of points earned by National League champions per game. Likewise, an increase in the percentage of matches remaining after the league title decision. In short, fewer clubs win titles with more points, in less time.
What happens at the top of the game, in the Champions League and the Europa League, affects the rest of the game. The way income is distributed there is reflected in the hierarchy. Power breeds money, and more often than not, in the field itself, money breeds success.