Clubs which have created the Champions League brand should be given special treatment.
The Relevent Sports chairman, Charlie Stillitano, who has held talks with the leading English Premier League teams this week, has confirmed they also discussed “restructuring the Champions League” and whether it could become a ‘closed shop’ which could exclude clubs such as current Premier league leaders Leicester City.
Stillitano spoke with representatives from Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United on Tuesday in London about this year’s International Champions Cup (ICC), but he also claimed that Uefa has been keen on working with the ICC.
“We have even talked to Uefa in the past because they had an interest in our summer tournament,” Stillitano told the US satellite radio station SiriusXM. “That is something they would like to integrate into their portfolio.”
Discussions within the European Clubs Association about the possibility of guaranteed Champions League places for prestigious teams come at a time when several of England’s bigger clubs such as Chelsea, Liverpool and both Manchester CLUBS, are in danger of failing to qualify for Europe’s top competition next season.
“What would Manchester United argue: did we create soccer or did Leicester create [it]?” said Stillitano. “Let’s call it the money pot created by soccer and the fandom around the world. Who has had more of an integral role, Manchester United or Leicester? It’s a wonderful, wonderful story – but you could see it from Manchester United’s point of view, too.”
If the Premier League season ended now, Leicester and Tottenham would qualify for the Champions League, while Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool, three of clubs who held talks with Revenant, would miss out.
“Maybe that is absolutely spectacular unless you are a Manchester United fan, Liverpool fan … or a Chelsea fan,” Stillitano said. “I guess they don’t have a birthright to be in it every year but it’s the age-old argument: US sports franchises versus what they have in Europe. There are wonderful, wonderful, wonderful elements to relegation and promotion and there are good arguments for a closed system.”
Stillitano said fans are more likely to watch the bigger clubs in the current round of 16 rather than matches involving PSV Eindhoven and Ghent.
“This is going to sound arrogant and it’s the furthest thing from it … but suddenly when you see the teams we have this summer in the ICC you are going to shake your head and say, ‘Isn’t that the Champions League?’” Stillitano said. “No, the Champions League is PSV and Ghent.”
Articulating the grievances he claims to have heard from major European clubs, Stillitano continued: “I could make a lot more money, I can be a lot more visible, I can help my sponsors out but right now I am locked into doing certain things that are really historic.”