IAN HERBERT: 'Swiss-model' for Champions League expansion is a SCANDAL

IAN HERBERT: UEFA’s ‘Swiss-model’ for Champions League expansion is nothing short of a SCANDAL… Andrea Agnelli’s ideas make the blood boil as he looks to mastermind a safety net for Europe’s incompetent elite

  • European Clubs’ Association chairman Andrea Agnelli is pushing for change
  • Agnelli is a driving force behind an expanded model for the Champions League
  • Calling it the ‘Swiss model’, the proposed plan is nothing short of a scandal
  • It would be a safety net for the incompetent members of elite who don’t qualify 
  • Sides like Leicester and Aston Villa would see their qualification ambitions fade 

They’re calling the new expanded Champions League ‘the Swiss model’ – which is a handy way of pushing the bare-faced lie that is an expertly-constructed way of enhancing continental football for the benefit of all.

It’s nothing of the sort, of course. What Juventus president Andrea Agnelli also calls the ‘ideal’ model – 36 teams playing 10 group matches, with Champions League football every single month of the season, domestic leagues damaged and probably reduced to make room in the schedule and England’s cup competitions in jeopardy – is just another land grab from the wealthiest clubs.

We’ve seen during the pandemic what scant disregard the Premier League’s top sides have for the notion of collectivism. They plotted ‘Project Big Picture’, which would have allowed the wealthiest to bank four times as much basic income as the sides in the league’s low reaches and screen more games direct to their vast global fan base.

 The Champions League is in discussions to expand in a move which favours the elite teams

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin and Andrea Agnelli, chairman of the European Clubs Association, are key players in the proposed ‘Swiss model’ reform of the Champions League

The expanded Champions League is rooted in precisely the same swamp. 

Agnelli says that it would bring an end to recurring rumours about a breakaway Super League, though it’s actually a way for the super-rich to detach themselves from the inconvenience of Tuesday nights at Burnley, Southampton and Brighton and bask in the splendour of something supposedly grander. (Though watching paint dry already surpasses most group stage games.)

Big Picture made you rage against the capitalist creed being of clubs who were supposed to stand for something better. I wrote in October about Liverpool’s betrayal of a supposedly socialist spirit.

Barcelona have been run horrendously off the pitch and yet the ‘Swiss model’ favours them

Clubs with recent history of European success could have a protected route into  competition

But ‘the Swiss model’ – with its ‘wild card’ and ‘access boost’ places for the giant incompetents who can’t qualify despite their vast wealth – is UEFA’s financial leg-up for clubs whose financial mismanagement is nothing less than a scandal.

Above all, Barcelona – a club which celebrated as the outstanding model for years, yet which was being propped up all that time by state aid which Europe’s highest court ruled last week had been illegal. Barcelona – a club drowning in more than 1billion euros of debt yet which had deemed it intelligent to award Lionel Messi a four-year contract worth 555m euros, including salary and easily achieved performances bonuses.

How grateful Barcelona will be for Agnelli’s ‘Swiss model’. And Real Madrid too – another woefully run football club who will be paying back that illegal state aid now. 

For these and many others, whose moribund domestic competitions routinely fail to set the world on fire, the expanded Champions League provides new territories to conquer. And the assumption that they will be grabbing a slice of the broadcasting income which has given the Premier League a revenue advantage.

Clubs like Aston Villa and Wolves would see the route to the Champions League made harder

It is precisely because the revenue is shared equitably that the Premier League is the best and most lucrative football league in the world. Fulham win at Anfield. Tottenham win 6-1 at Old Trafford and lose at Brighton. Burnley draw with Arsenal, a club whose wage bill is twice their own. If TV income and profile is lost, the Premier League’s unique competitive element recedes and the competition diminishes.

For the likes of Leicester, West Ham, Aston Villa and Leeds United – whose excellent husbandry of more limited resources has made them the stories of this season – the already remote prospect of Champions League qualification recedes equivalently. Agnelli’s ‘access boost’ is certainly not designed for them.

Agnelli makes your blood boil as he pompously opines on how a smaller Premier League would be a good thing: ‘for competitive balance purposes 20 teams in leagues are too many.’ Yet you sense that the Premier League is resigned to its fate.

Nowhere within these shores, have we heard the indignation expressed by Christian Seifert, chief executive of the Bundesliga, who called out the self-interest which lies at the heart of Agnelli’s scheming. ‘These so-called super clubs are in fact poorly managed, cash-burning machines, Seifert said. ‘In a decade of incredible growth, they could not come close to a sustainable business model.’

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus are struggling domestically and Agnelli is targeting a safety net

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