Germany and England launch joint assault on Champions League reform plans

Tom Morgan
English clubs are against changes to the Champions League format - Offside

Proposals to abandon the current Champions League qualification criteria could "destroy" the European football pyramid, the head of the German leagues said as he vowed to torpedo the plans with the help of England.

Reinhard Rauball, president of the DFB and Borussia Dortmund, suggested the campaign for reforms led by the European Clubs' Association (ECA) threatened great footballing traditions.

"Our league comes first and we have to take care that a successful league is not destroyed," he told reporters, after a Uefa meeting in Paris. The ECA's plan, to be discussed further at a summit on Friday, would mean 14 group matches instead of six, and a promotion/relegation system to replace all clubs qualifying directly from domestic competition.

Rauball is heartened that a host of senior football figures in the English game have also voiced opposition to changes which could see the competition become a "closed shop".

The former Manchester United CEO David Gill, who is the deputy chairman of Uefa's club competitions committee, has also expressed serious concerns to colleagues, pointing out the success of Tottenham Hotspur and Ajax as evidence the competition is healthy.

Reinhard Rauball (centre right), president of the DFB, is opposed to the proposed changes Credit: getty images

Rauball said the changes have little hope, however, without widespread support in the Premier League and Bundesliga. “Our league, the Bundesliga, decided 100 per cent that we don’t go this way with the ECA," he said. “David Gill thinks in the same way. The German and British leagues are opposing it and I don’t think it is possible we will find a solution without Germany and without England. It’s a special situation for Bayern and Borussia Dortmund which is my club [as they are in ECA], but our league comes first and we have to take care that a successful league is not destroyed."

He said the relegation reforms were "a typical American kind of competition, a kind of closed shop". "In Europe we have a traditional football pyramid, and in Germany we have the league with the highest attendances, more than 42,000 average, and that has been developed step by step," he said. "So we don’t want to destroy it with one decision. We have to make clear that the national league is most important. If you make a pyramid like the ECA we would destroy all the clubs and that is what is dangerous. We are traditionalists and we want that this is the future of football as well.”

Aleksander Čeferin, the Uefa president, has responded cautiously to the potential reforms, which would need to take place with governing body agreement from 2024. He pointed out that 900,000 tickets had been requested on official channels for the Champions League final between Liverpool and Tottenham, one of the most in-demand matches in footballing history.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, also waded into the debate by criticising the reforms after a meeting with Fifa president Gianni Infantino. Speaking to media, Macron said:  "We must defend our model, our clubs, and I think it's not a good idea to sacrifice the viability of our model for the benefit of some at the European level."