By Andrew Warshaw
August 11 – Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, one of the most influential figures in European football, has announced he is stepping down as head of the European Club Association.
The Bayern Munich chief has chaired the ECA since it replaced the G14 group of Europe’s elite clubs in 2008. Re-elected three times, he watched the organisation grow to 220 member clubs from an initial 53 associations.
In a statement, Rummenigge, who successfully campaigned for the clubs to have a major say in the running of the European game and gain more compensation when their players are on international duty, said: “Following intense, successful and good years, I believe the time has come to pass on the responsibility.
“I have always believed this office should only be held for a limited amount of time. My withdrawal from office expresses my sincerity concerning this issue.
“We can be proud of what we achieved in cooperation with FIFA and UEFA — all of our players are now insured for all international fixtures and the clubs now receive compensation when their professionals participate in a World or European Championship.
“Furthermore, the clubs now have two seats on the UEFA executive board and are thus involved in scheduling the match calendar and other vital decisions concerning the clubs.”
Rummenigge’s replacement will be announced at the next ECA board elections in Geneva on September 5 . Those in contention reportedly include Ivan Gazidis of Arsenal, Celtic’s Peter Lawwell and Manchester United executive vice chairman Ed Woodward.
Often outspoken but at the same time conscious of when to be diplomatic, Rummenigge’s eight years in charge will be considered an undoubted success but critics will argue that under his tenure the rich have got richer and the gap between the haves and have-nots has widened.
A case in point is the ECA backing the 2018-21 Champions League cycle under which more group stage places are being allotted to teams from the top four leagues and fewer for clubs from smaller leagues, much to the irritation of the league’s own umbrella body.
Rummenigge denies the ECA’s policies have been detrimental to the smaller clubs. “The European top clubs feel great solidarity with the medium-sized and smaller clubs, while these smaller clubs have an understanding for the needs of the big clubs,” he said. “I am particularly proud of this fact.”
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