GENEVA (AP) — With billions in prize money to distribute from the revamped Champions League next year, UEFA plans to pay more based on merit and share more among teams across Europe that don’t qualify.
The formula announced Wednesday for distributing money to hundreds of clubs should reduce the guaranteed cash currently paid to wealthy clubs with storied pasts.
UEFA and the influential European Club Association signed a renewed working agreement through 2030.
The accord in place since 2008 aims to ensure stability in European soccer, though it did not prevent 12 storied ECA members from trying to launch the Super League in 2021. That project effectively tried to replace the Champions League in a grab for more money and control but failed within 48 hours.
The Champions League is being revamped next year with 36 teams instead of 32, each guaranteed eight games, and total commercial revenue of 4.4 billion euros ($4.72 billion) projected Wednesday by UEFA for its men's club competitions.
That is about an 18% increase on this season’s total of more than 3.73 billion euros ($4 billion) of combined gross income for the Champions League, Europa League — which also gets 36 teams — and third-tier Europa Conference League.
However, it is below the “4.6 to 4.8” billion euros range suggested by UEFA just four months ago after a first wave of broadcast deals for the 2024-27 seasons had performed well in Britain, France and the United States.
UEFA and ECA have long faced criticism for seeming to skew too much prize money toward elite clubs and helping widen a wealth gap across European soccer.
Seeking to turn that trend Wednesday, UEFA said more of the current gross revenue estimate — 7% instead of 4% — will be paid to clubs that do not qualify for European competitions.
“A central element of this agreement is the shared priority to nurture European club football at every level,” UEFA said.
The European Leagues group said this would share 308 million euros ($330 million) among those clubs instead of the current 175 million euros ($188 million).
“(This) will help all clubs across Europe to safeguard their competitiveness on and off the pitch while keeping investing in youth and talent development,” the 33-nation leagues group said.
UEFA also will pay a bigger share of Champions League prize money in equal fees to all clubs who qualify — up from 25% of the pot this year to 27.5% next season. Currently, all 32 teams get at least 15.64 million euros ($16.8 million) to play in the group stage.
The share of the prize pot allocated to performance bonuses — wins and draws in the first stage, then escalating amounts for advancing through each knockout round — rises to 37.5% from the current 30%.
In the last round of club prize payments published by UEFA, for the 2021-22 season, Champions League winner Real Madrid topped the table with 133.7 million euros ($143.4 million).
The ECA working agreement with UEFA also recognizes it as the only official representative of clubs in Europe. It is facing a challenge from the Union of European Clubs group which aims to give a stronger voice to lower-ranked members.
“I want to be clear,” ECA chairman Nasser al-Khelaifi, the Paris Saint-Germain president, told his members Wednesday who were joined in Berlin by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, “as clubs we have obligations under our (UEFA agreement). We must all honor them.”
Super League leaders Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus are still exiled from the ECA ahead of an imminent final ruling from the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg to their challenge to UEFA control in European soccer.
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer
Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press