ECA boss Al-Khelaifi dismisses ESL’s failed trio and sketches plans for club support

September 7 – The head of the European Clubs Association (ECA), Nasser Al-Khelaifi, has called out the three rebel clubs still hopeful of setting up a breakaway Super League and has described those who originally backed the project as “fabulists and failures”.

Nine of the 12 ‘founder’ members withdrew within hours of the Super League being launched in April following a huge backlash across the sport but Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus have continued to support the plans.

Al-Khelaifi, the Paris St Germain president, welcomed the nine clubs who abandoned the idea back into the bosom of the ECA but at the same time, without mentioning them by name, denounced the three persisting renegades for attempting to drive a wedge through European football.

“I will not spend much time talking about the 18th of April, and the ‘not-so-Super League’, because I do not like to focus on fabulists and failures,” he said in his address to the ECA general assembly in Geneva on Monday.

“I feel a renewed hope and purpose for our organisation and the European football family.”

“Recently, people have tried to divide us; they tried to separate us. They tried to weaken us. They failed. They did the opposite – they brought us together, and we are stronger. I am convinced that the future of European football could not be brighter.

“Together, we defended the interests of European football for everyone – for the players, the clubs, the leagues, the national associations, and most of all, the fans. We relied on the resolve and strength of (UEFA) president [Aleksander] Ceferin, who stood up to the midnight coup – and people with short memories should remember that this is exactly what it was.

“And while the three rebel-clubs waste energies, twist narratives and continue to shout at the sky, the rest of us are moving forward and focusing every energy on building a better future for European football – together as one.

“As you know, for the nine clubs who asked to come back into our family, the ECA board has re-integrated them into our structures with renewed commitments to strengthen our association. I welcome them back to the ECA family.”

Al-Khelaifi also announced a five-point plan from the ECA to “repair and strengthen European football”, with financial safeguards a priority amid the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The ECA intends to create a debt fund alongside UEFA to help clubs recover from the impact of Covid while Financial Fair Play measures are set to be changed, with unconfirmed reports of a possible salary cap.

“The first priority is to bring urgent financial stability to European football,” said Al-Khelaifi. “Even before COVID, many financial problems affected football. However, the pandemic has magnified them all. We are all facing this new COVID reality today – every single club is feeling the pain; big clubs and small clubs, from all parts of Europe.

“To meet the challenges that European football is currently facing, the ECA must evolve with a stronger focus. To be the ‘heart’ of European football, the ECA must be a determined and powerful stakeholder leading the agenda and the development of a united European football family.”

“During the two pandemic seasons, there has been billions of losses in revenues in European football – and we are not through the woods this season either. If we don’t act soon, the damage will be impossible to reverse.

“The ECA is working hand-in-hand with UEFA to put in place a multi-billion euro debt fund to allow clubs of all tiers to accelerate their recovery from the financial devastation of COVID. We know the need from our members is significant, and we have fought strongly for this project.

“In addition, as we look to avoid financial trouble in the future beyond the COVID crisis, an emergency UEFA-ECA fund for future crises is being examined.

“Further, the ECA has also championed a separate initiative to re-distribute around €50 million per year more of solidarity money for the benefit of smaller clubs not participating in European club competition. Smaller clubs need this extra money. This is what I mean by saying the ECA represents the interests of all.

“Finally, new Financial Fair Play regulations will be put in place with the objective for European club football to remain at the pinnacle of sport and entertainment, but while also ensuring a stable, sustainable, inclusive and competitive football pyramid.”

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