Bayern Munich CEO and chairman of the European Club Association (ECA) Karl-Heinz Rummenigge expressed his support for the recent changes to the format of UEFA’s Club Competitions. Given that one of the changes will see representatives of the ECA jointly serve on a new governing body over UEFA Club Competitions, there is little doubt that Rummenigge himself was instrumental in drafting the reforms.
Regarding the direct participation of the ECA in the decision-making process for competitions such as the Champions League and Europa League, Rummenigge stated:
The new concept that has been adopted by the UEFA Executive Committee is not a revolution; it is an evolution. An evolution that was long overdue and which we all welcome. We are extremely pleased with the way our relationship with UEFA has developed since ECA's creation in 2008. The creation of the new club competition entity is proof that the voice of the clubs in European football continues to be heard and respected.
Including the ECA in the governance of UEFA’s most lucrative competitions is indeed not a revolution, but the decision to do so may have been intended to prevent one. There have been rumblings for years now that the biggest clubs in Europe are dissatisfied with the format of the current competitions, in particular, the lucrative Champions League.
Some, including Rummenigge himself, have advocated founding a European Superleague in which the elite clubs of Europe would compete exclusively among themselves. The accomplishments of the reforms touted by UEFA and the ECA, however, seem to indicate that their immediate goal was to prevent the emergence of an exclusive Superleague:
The UEFA proposal was unanimously endorsed by the ECA Executive Board and is in line with the principles that were put forward by ECA Members, namely:
- To increase sporting quality and competitive balance
- To maximise commercial success
- To keep both competitions open to all National Associations
- To maintain the UCL champions path
The changes to UEFA’s governance thus represent a compromise. UEFA remains the primary governing body, but they have co-opted the ECA rather than risk alienating the organization that represents the interests of Europe’s most powerful clubs. To that end, UEFA has indeed formally recognized an evolution in the soccer world: the global ascendancy of the elite clubs.
Rummenigge himself stated, “I welcome UEFA's decision. It reflects a serious and fair solution for European club football. I am particularly pleased with the fact that the European football community remains united moving forward.”
The ECA Executive Board unanimously endorsed UEFA’s changes, which will be in force for 2018-2021 cycle. For now, it appears that Rummenigge has led the ECA to a compromise with UEFA that will keep the elite clubs of Europe in the orbit of their lesser neighbors while guaranteeing them the revenue to remain competitive among one another.