Financial stability and player welfare: ECA puts rescue plan into action
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Financial stability and player welfare: ECA puts rescue plan into action
by Jonathan Rest

The European Club Association has unveiled a five-point plan aimed at repairing and strengthening football on the continent, with financial safeguards a priority amid the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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.  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.
Nasser Al-Khelaifi
ECA Chairman, and Paris Saint-Germain President and CEO

ECA Chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the President and CEO of Paris Saint-Germain, told the ECA General Assembly in Geneva that the proposed measures will ensure that the interests of all clubs in Europe, not just the elite, are represented.

 

The Five Point Plan

 

1. Financial Stability of European Football

 

The ECA is working alongside UEFA to put in place a multi-billion Euro debt fund to allow clubs of all tiers to accelerate their recovery from Covid, while Financial Fair Play measures are set to be changed, albeit Al-Khelaifi did not directly refer to a possible salary cap that has been mooted as a replacement.

 

He said: "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.  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."

 

2. Stronger ECA Relationships

 

Al-Khelaifi said clubs need to work together with UEFA to better optimise revenues from club competitions, with changes to the model for commercialising UEFA Club Competitions to come in from 2024.

 

In addition, he cited the need for "honest engagement, not unilateral and self-interested decisions" when it comes to the international match calendar.

 

He added: "Over-scheduled and disrupted matches put the players’ health and wellbeing at risk – and the Clubs bear all the risk.  Agreements and MOUs should not be broken – integrity and trust are important values.  Our Club Leagues have stakeholders who count on the vital revenue from League matches at the local level; and international competition cannot suffocate fans’ and players’ connections to Clubs, without which international competition wouldn’t exist.  This issue is critical for the clubs, the players and the fans."

 

3. Meaningful ECA member-benefits

 

The ECA is not doing enough for its members, the Chairman admitted, citing the need for a centralised hub of excellence that will provided medical, legal, scouting, youth development and networking advice and opportunities to clubs throughout the pyramid. 

 

The ECA has already set in motion plans to form a 'Football Advisory Panel' of ex-players, ex-coaches and ex-managers to provide their input in order to strengthen European football.  

 

4. Diversity & Inclusion – reflecting all of Europe

 

The ECA is also failing in its mission to "reflect all of Europe." That means more investment in women's and youth football and being more inclusive in general.

 

Al-Khelaifi pointed to UEFA's creation of a third European club competition, the Europa Conference, which has meant "today 20% more teams participate in the Group Stages of the European Club Competitions."

 

5. Renewed ECA/European Football Spirit & Values

 

In response to the failed Super League breakaway of 12 European clubs earlier this year, the ECA emphasised that "every club is respected equally."

 

Al-Khelaifi added: "Sporting merit based on open competition has been the foundation of our system – clubs of all sizes deserve a chance to chase their dream in open competition.  These values can never be compromised.  In addition, once the Clubs agree on something at the ECA, we will stand by our word."

 

All is forgiven

 

The ECA also elected three new members to its executive board at the general assembly, all from clubs that had been suspended by the organisation over the attempted Super League breakaway.

 

Tottenham Hotspur Chairman Daniel Levy, Inter Milan CEO Alessandro Antonello and Atletico Madrid CEO Miguel Angel Gil are the new members.

 

Levy saw off the challenge of Manchester City CEO Ferran Soriano to take a seat.

 

The three clubs were among nine out of 12 clubs that were suspended from the ECA for joining the Super League but were reinstated in August after the project collapsed following criticism from fans and other stakeholders.

 

The ECA is now led by Chairman Nasser Al Khelaifi (President and CEO of Paris Saint-Germain), with other key board figures being Edwin Van Der Sar (Ajax), Michael Gerlinger (Bayern Munich), Hans-Joachim Watzke (Borussia Dortmund) and Jean-Michel Aulas (Lyon).

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