Supporters' groups oppose 'irresponsible' Champions League proposals that could impact Newcastle United

The Football Supporters’ Association network representing all 20 Premier League clubs has unanimously opposed the latest UEFA Champions League reform proposals.

Tuesday, 12th April 2022, 1:51 pm

The proposals are to allow two teams to qualify for the Champions League not based on league position, but their UEFA coefficient instead.

The coefficient is a metric that is calculated based on continental performance over the past five seasons. So teams who have historically qualified for Europe’s top club competition will be at an advantage to keep qualifying even if they under-perform in their domestic league.

Clubs who finish outside of the Champions League places in their domestic leagues but still qualify for the Europa League through league position or by winning a domestic cup, will compete for two Champions League places which would be decided by their coefficient rankings.

The trophy is displayed ahead of the draw for the 2022 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, semi-finals and final at the UEFA headquarters, in Nyon, on March 18, 2022. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

This would be bad news for Newcastle United, who are currently below the likes of Wigan Athletic, Swansea City and Hull City in UEFA’s coefficient as all three have qualified for European football more recently than The Magpies.

The FSA’s Premier League Network believes the changes will ‘entrench the richest clubs, damage the English football pyramid and rip off fans’.

Their statement read: “Our Network represents fans that support teams across the English Premier League.

“We are united in opposition to proposals to reform the Champions League that are a back door attempt at a return to the discredited idea of a European Super League.

“Last year, it was our supporter groups that united to force the collapse of the European Super League. At the time, UEFA told us that fans were the heart of the game and promised fans’ views would be centre stage in deciding what came next.

“So it is with great dismay that we now face the prospect of changes to the Champions League that will mean many more group games being played and entry for some clubs being based on a historical five-year ‘UEFA Club Co-efficient’.”

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Bayern Munich are top of UEFA’s club coefficient over the past five seasons. The German giants won the Champions League back in 2020 and have reached the semi-finals in eight of the last 12 seasons.

Despite not winning the Champions League, Manchester City are England’s top ranked side and second overall. City have reached the quarter-finals in each of the last five seasons.

2019 winners Liverpool, 2021 winners Chelsea and 2018 winners Real Madrid complete the top five as it stands.

The FSA Premier League Network statement continued: “These proposals will only widen the gap between rich clubs and the rest, at the same time wrecking domestic league calendars, with the expectation that fans sacrifice yet more time and money attending meaningless group games.

“Fans do not want even more European games, especially drawn out group stages of ten games and an extra knockout round.

“It is irresponsible and out of touch to even consider doubling the number of home games that fans will have to attend before the last 16 knock out round begins. This will be compounded by the cost of living crisis that is hitting Europe.

“Furthermore, we do not see how increasing the requirement for teams and fans to fly around Europe is compatible with UEFA’s environmental commitments.

“We also fear for the future of the FA Cup and League Cup – competitions that are vital financial redistributive mechanisms in our football pyramid.

“We call on UEFA, and the members of its executive committee (EXCO), to specifically reject any plans that:

“Base qualification to the Champions League (or any other UEFA club competition) on anything but sporting merit performance in a relevant domestic league.

“Increase overall the number of games in the competition. To do so, will further increase financial pressure fans and damage the welfare of players who are being asked to play too much football.

“Premier League fans do not want ten group games involving a small cartel of rich clubs further distorting competitive balance. We want strong, competitive domestic leagues, an equal opportunity for all to qualify for UEFA competitions based on sporting merit, along with a fairer distribution of the game’s wealth from the revenues those competitions earn.

“Last year we engaged in constructive discussions with UEFA President Čeferin who made a commitment that fans would be listened to in this process. Our collective voice is unified and our position clear.

“We call on UEFA to demonstrate that it acts in the interests of the wider football community and its supporters, not just the interests of the few rich investors and state-owned clubs that, less than a year ago, tried to destroy the European football family.”

Newcastle last qualified for European football after finishing fifth during the 2011-12 Premier League season. The following season they reached the Europa League quarter-finals where they were knocked out by Benfica 4-2 on aggregate.

United have qualified for the Champions League on three occasions previously. In 1997-98 they were knocked out in the group stage phase but still managed to secure a memorable 3-2 win over Barcelona at St James’s Park.

Under Sir Bobby Robson, Newcastle twice qualified for the Champions League following fourth and third place finishes in the Premier League. They became the first side in Champions League history to qualify for the last-16 despite losing each of their opening three group stage matches in 2002-03.

The following season, they were knocked out by Partizan Belgrade on penalties in the third qualifying round.

Although Premier League survival is Newcastle’s short-term priority, the new owners’ long-term ambitions are to make the club one of Europe’s elite.

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