Europe’s biggest clubs accused of ‘stitch up’ over Champions League revamp

Europe’s biggest clubs have been accused of a “stitch up” over Champions League reforms which pocket them hundreds of millions more than rivals before they have kicked a ball.

Clubs outside England’s so-called Big Six fear a likely increase of the “coefficient” reward for historic success will dwarf team earnings for competition performance in any one season.

The likes of Leicester City already stand to earn less money than Manchester City from the competition, even if they qualified for the quarter-final and Pep Guardiola’s team were knocked out in the group stage.

However, fears have been raised from clubs across Europe that the new “Swiss System” plan set to be waved through by Uefa this month will widen the gulf even further as the giants lobby for more guaranteed earnings.

Concern from executives comes after a slideshow shown to clubs, and leaked to Telegraph Sport, shows how the big clubs already receive 30 per cent of revenue regardless of achievement that year.

Smaller teams are now convinced the coefficient rate will now go up even more when the delayed reforms for the competition post 2024 are finally tabled. “That chunk of money is only going to increase,” one leading British club executive said. “It’s all part of the same stitch up.”

The 30 per cent guarantee for the most successful clubs over the past 10 years has been in place since 2018, but Uefa has declined to detail what the plan post-2024 will be.

Currently, in the Champions League,  around €585 million (£500m) of revenue is spent on both coefficient and competition performance, with the highest ranked sides, such as Manchester City, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona expecting to extract in excess of £30million per season before they have even played a game.

Even though Uefa announced the arrangement several years ago, some smaller clubs were taken aback by the figures as they were explained to them this month in a slideshow by the European Leagues’ Clubs Advisory Platform, a body that represents 37 professional leagues in 30 countries.

Last season, Champions League, Europa League and the UEFA Super Cup revenue was estimated at around €3.25bn (£2.9billion), and the smaller teams believe the 2024 reforms could be a final chance to create a fairer model.

Concerns around the coefficient are just one of a number of issues that has enraged clubs outside the elite. The bigger clubs have also been pushing for a bigger slice in commercial rights from the controversial “Swiss System”, which was due to be announced on Wednesday but has been pushed back until April 19 due to last-minute wrangling.

It was claimed that Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and Manchester City chief executive Ferran Soriano made it clear at a meeting of Uefa’s Club Competitions Committee that they would not be prepared to endorse the new format without guarantees of more power.

European football’s governing body was already facing fierce opposition from the Premier League and others by expanding the Champions League from 32 to 36 teams and 125 matches to 225 from 2024/25.

Plans for back-door access for historically-successful clubs have helped stave off the threat of a European Super League, but there remains dismay that it would nevertheless widen the chasm between the haves and have-nots.

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