(WFI) FIFA presidential candidate Jerome Champagne says the rich are only getting richer in European football.
In a letter to FIFA member association presidents and other stakeholders of the sport, Champagne criticizes UEFA for allowing its highest earning clubs to widen the gulf between themselves and clubs outside the top five leagues.
“The consequence,” says Champagne in a 12-page open letter, “is that countries which were previously competitive at club level now see their clubs relegated to a position of talent producers for the wealthiest ones.”
He says three factors – the Bosman Case, the Champions League format, and the distribution of funds – have fuelled what he calls “a split between the 1% and the remaining 99% which divides European football.”
Champagne addresses what he calls the “money curtain,” which has allowed wealthier teams to dominate the Champions League and Europa League, the latter of which has traditionally been seen as an opportunity for small and mid-size clubs to receive exposure.
Instead, three of the last five Europa League champions have been teams allowed to join the tournament after being eliminated from the Champions League.
The polarisation of the game is present on a national level as well, Champagne says, as he points out that a group of four clubs – Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester City – have combined to win 21 of the 22 English Premier League titles handed out since 1992.
Similar dominance by top teams can be seen in La Liga, the Bundesliga, and the national leagues of Portugal, Denmark, and Switzerland.
Among solutions suggested by Champagne are the redistribution of resources and the reorganisation
of the club competition formats.
Though he says it is “unrealistic” to bring back the European Cup era, where only national champions participated in tournaments, he said a system should be sought that would increase parity while also strengthening the Europa League, rather than having it seen as a backup competition.
Champagne also says he sees this as “a unique opportunity to reconcile FIFA and UEFA for good after decades of misunderstanding and sometimes sterile bickering.”
In conclusion, the candidate for FIFA presidency said: “My life and my career made a world citizen out of me, but being from French and European origin and a fan of two European clubs, I really care about the situation of European football not only for itself but also because of its impact on world football.
“In our 21st globalised century, a better balance for our sport is more than never [sic] necessary.”
Champagne is the only candidate so far in the FIFA presidential race. His attack on UEFA is also an attack on president Michel Platini, who is set to decide later this year whether to run for the top job in world football. After dropping strong hints that he has no intention of quitting the FIFA presidency, Sepp Blatter seems certain to announce his re-election bid in June at the FIFA Congress.
By INSIDER’s Nick Devlin