Do European Football Clubs have a voice in the decisions made by the European Governing Body of Football?

Popularity of European Football

European Football is currently the most lucrative football market in the world with a competition such as the UEFA Champions League being the premier football competition in the world attracting huge amounts of revenue in television rights, sponsorship and ticket sales.

Changes to the structure of European Football Competitions

The European football clubs will therefore feel that they are in an extremely strong position in relation to the European Football Governing Body (UEFA) and should be considered when changes which affect them are made by UEFA.

Often the structure of European Football competition whether that is the Champions League or the Europa League is often changed with the clubs affected feeling that they should have a voice when these decisions have been made. For example in 2002 the structure of the Champions League was changed prior to the knock-out stages with the creation of a second group stage. This meant that the number of games in the tournament so vastly increased creating the potential for much more money to be made of the tournament. This may have been a decision which benefited UEFA but for the clubs participating who were to reach the later stages of the tournament there could be a huge impact of playing more games on the potential of both their European and domestic seasons.

Do the European Football clubs have a voice?

The European Club Association

  • On the 15th January 2008 an agreement was signed with UEFA which signaled the creation of the European Club Association (ECA) creating a new reformed hierarchy in the footballing world.

  • Following the creation of the agreement the ECA is now recognised as the sole body representing the interests of football clubs at a European level. The agreement not only states that UEFA recognises the ECA in this capacity but that the ECA recognises UEFA as the European governing body of football and FIFA as the worldwide governing body of football.

What is the structure of the ECA?

  • When initially created the ECA will be made up of 103 football clubs represented from all of UEFA’s 53 member associations. This enables clubs from all leagues and countries to have a say in the decisions which may affect them.

What does this mean?

  • This means that there will be more harmony between the European Football Clubs and the governing bodies due to the fact that the European football clubs represented by the ECA will have a say in the decisions made by UEFA which affect them. As a consequence of this the number of claims brought against UEFA or FIFA will decrease.

What was the position before the creation of the ECA?

Before the ECA the European football clubs were represented by a body called the G14.

What was the G14?

Formed in September 2000 the G14 was a body created by 14 of the top European Football Clubs. The reason for the G14 being formed was due to the clubs continued dissatisfaction towards UEFA and a feeling that the clubs should be represented within the formal UEFA decision making process as many of these decisions made by UEFA would have a huge affect on the clubs.

Did the G14 have any recognised legal status?

The G14 did not have recognised legal status with UEFA and therefore was not recognised as an authority in the football world. The G14 operated more as a pressure group often lobbying UEFA and taking them to court in relation to certain decisions. One threat that was continually banded around when discussing the G14 was that of a breakaway from UEFA for the top clubs creating a European Super League administered by the clubs – clearly this was a threat which never came about.

So what has happened to the G14 now?

The G14 is effectively the body which has formed the basis of the ECA so in essence it still exists simply with a proper legal basis and full recognition from the footballing authorities.

Why did the football authorities decide to give the G14 full legal authority as the ECA?

The real issue with the powerful voice of the original G14 was that many of the problems associated with football were being played out in the courts in front of the worldwide media clearly showing that football did not have its house in order.

One of the most high profile cases was in relation to a case involving a European Club losing one of their players due to injury while that player was on international duty. This led to the player missing the remainder of the season and was blamed for the reason that his club did not go on to win their own domestic league.

The player’s club then brought a claim for compensation against FIFA for the injured player. Most importantly this was a claim which was supported by the G14. During this case the G14 also went on to claim huge sums of damages for the costs incurred in the previous 10 years of putting players at FIFA disposal enabling them to represent their countries which is often to the detriment of the clubs paying their wages.

So what is the position now?

The creation of the ECA brought with it a promise by all clubs that any outstanding cases against the football governing bodies would be dropped.

This was a position that was seen as positive for both sides as the clubs were given a recognised legal status and a voice and the governing bodies would have no further cases brought against them.

Issues of clubs being compensated when players are on international duty

This case was not only the supposed catalyst for the creation of the ECA it has also had far ranging consequences for the issue of clubs being compensated when losing their players for international competition.

Following on from the creation of the ECA it has been decided that clubs will be adequately compensated when players are injured on international duty but also simply for their participation in international tournaments such as the World Cup or the European Championships. For example for during the European Championship competition in 2008 clubs were paid up to £3,000 a day for the loss of each of their players.

Will this apply to all international matches?

The payment to clubs for the participation of their players in international competitions will only apply to the final stages of the tournament and will not apply to the qualifying stages of the tournament.