Shakhtar’s outlook on European club governance could help bridge divide - Sergei Palkin

The club’s CEO on why multiple representative bodies could be a positive and give clubs a choice on who represents their interests in the European football governance

June 29, 2023



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This column was originally published in The Guardian

FC Shakhtar is a club that has been fortunate enough to compete at the highest level of European football for several years. However, we now find ourselves in a domestic league that is rapidly declining as a result of a destructive military invasion of our country that further decimated an already fragile and inefficient football market.

In our unique position, we have followed with interest recent developments regarding the future of European football and its club governance structure, namely the creation of the Union of European Clubs (UEC). It was particularly interesting to read the opposing views on this matter from the La Liga president, Javier Tebas, a supporter of the UEC, and the CEO of the European Club Association (ECA), Charlie Marshall.

The stark difference in their views is symptomatic of the issues that we experience as a club. On one hand, we are a club that must engage and sit at the table with Europe’s “elite” clubs discussing matters related to the Uefa Champions League and other high-level topics. And on the other hand, we need support from football’s stakeholders regarding a range of threats to our domestic football brought about by the war.

We increasingly find ourselves caught in the middle. Few clubs operate at two very different levels like we do, but it has given us a unique perspective, where one thing is very clear: club needs are not being met across all levels and there is much more work to be done regarding European club football governance.

The question is, should there be a monopoly in this area, with one right opinion and everyone else being wrong? It’s almost impossible to assume that one single organisation is capable of representing and meeting the vast array of needs of all clubs in Europe.

The disparity across clubs has become so big, it’s increasingly unlikely one organisation can or even should manage it all. Just as in football itself, we believe competition can be a solution and achieve a positive outcome. It’s about listening to the demand and the emergence of the UEC is a classic example where some clubs that felt they weren’t represented have seen a new organisation supporting their agenda and jumped on board.

All clubs are stakeholders in the European football ecosystem and all clubs should have a say in its future. The value and ideas that an increased number of clubs could bring to the table can change and secure football’s future. However, if those views are not filtering through and represented at Uefa’s top table, then we will risk further infighting, discontent and unproductive subdivisions. The result of which means clubs like us face difficult and uncertain futures.

We support the view there can be more than one club representative organisation – leading to healthy debate and competition and creating a more informed and democratic approach to decision-making. The UEC should have a voice on Uefa’s board, along with the ECA – they both have important roles to play, along with Uefa, in finding solutions to European football’s key issues. They come from different viewpoints and bring different solutions, but we see this as an advantage, not a problem.

Perhaps most important is that clubs should have a choice. We should be free to choose an organisation we feel best represents our interests. In some instances, that could mean being a member of both or even other organisations that may emerge in the future. After all, representation should not be based on the status of the club, its voice sounding the loudest or its presence in boards or committees, but rather on the particular issues those clubs are facing.

Sergei Palkin is the chief executive of FC Shakhtar.