The Premier League’s so called “big 5” clubs’ executives met to discuss and debate changes to the Champions League. With discussions across Europe over the future of the competition and proposals that could include guaranteed entry in the competition for the biggest teams.
Those seen leaving the meeting were Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, Chelsea chairman, Bruce Buck, Arsenal’s chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, City’s chief executive, Ferran Soriano, and the Liverpool chief executive, Ian Ayre.
According to the Guardian, sources at Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal admitted debating the format.
One idea favoured by some European clubs would mean there is a two-tier system, that would guarantee entry to the bigger names in football and at the same time ensure others to qualify as well.
Despite Manchester United and Liverpool having missed out on the competition in recent years, especially the latter, and Chelsea looking set to miss out this season, the “big” clubs insist that they are recognized in the Champions League as this is crucial to the Premier League’s appeal and charm.
In leagues in Spain, France and Germany, the likes of Barcelona, PSG and Bayern Munich qualify due to a lack of competitiveness in the league and would want to see “more attractive matches against bigger-name clubs in the group stages”.
Insiders from each club have insisted that they have met regularly and there has often been participation from Tottenham Hotspur, continuing that the majority of the discussion has revolved around the ICC. Only Arsenal have confirmed their position publicly.
“We are strongly opposed to any breakaway. Not Arsenal, nor any clubs at the meeting, are seeking changes to the Premier League and European landscape and no conversations surrounding displacing the Premier League or starting a European Super League took place,” said an Arsenal spokesman. “Discussions were primarily around the ICC and formats of European competitions that would complement the existing Premier League.”
It was confirmed that the Relevant Sports chairman, Charlie Stillitano, held talks with the clubs on Tuesday in London about this year’s International Champions Cup (ICC), an annual pre-season friendly tournament organised by his company. Stillitano then confirmed they also discussed “restructuring the Champions League” – an issue high on the European Club Association agenda amid a power vacuum at Uefa.
Stillitano revealed that the European governing body, UEFA had been keen on working with the ICC, with the UEFA having interest in the summer tournament and wanting to integrate something similar in their portfolio.
“What would Manchester United argue: did we create soccer or did Leicester create [it]?” said Stillitano justifying the argument in favor of the big 5, “Let’s call it the money pot created by soccer and the fandom around the world. Who has had more of an integral role, Manchester United or Leicester? It’s a wonderful, wonderful story – but you could see it from Manchester United’s point of view, too.”
Stillitano believes that Europe’s biggest clubs deserve to become part of the Champions League and make more profit from the competition as they have contributed to making it such a big success.
While it is unlikely that the rules will be changed and the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea who do not look like they will qualify for the competition will be included in favor of Leicester and Tottenham Hotspur, the debate and discussion of this topic is unlikely to cease without any friction.