The Union of European Clubs launches in Brussels

Lack of representation of non-elite clubs at institutional level has led to significant erosion in football, benefiting only elite clubs and harming the true heart of football

April 24, 2023



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In what is bound to become a historic milestone for Europeanfootball the Union of European Clubs (UEC) was officially launched today in Brussels.

The UEC is a much-needed initiative to provide a voice to at least 92% of professional football clubs who today go unheard. Europe has more than 1,500 professional football clubs, the vast majority have no international platform nor any representation with key institutions such as UEFA or the European Union.

“The Union of European Clubs fills a massive void and will champion the interests of the clubs that form the foundation of European football,” said the UEC Founder Dennis Gudasic who also serves as Executive Director of Zagreb’s Lokomotiva FC. “It is crucial that small and medium sized clubs gain a voice. Over the past decades football has become increasingly agame of the elite, this trend needs to be reversed or the beautiful game will suffer irreparable harm.”

The UEC was launched at a hybrid event with the physical and online presence of 103 of professional clubs of all sizes from around the continent. Also present were officials from EU institutions, various football stakeholders, and media.

By giving a voice to the true heart of European football the UEC aims to create a fairer and more sustainable football ecosystem. The UEC has many common objectives with UEFA as the central governing body, but also with other stakeholders, such as the European Leagues, which gathers 40 professional football leagues and represents more than 1,000 clubs in 34 countries across Europe.

In addition to Mr Gudasic, one of the UEC Founders, the initiative was presented in Brussels by the UEC General Secretary Dr. Katarina Pijetlovic, Irish football manager and former professional footballer Mr Gareth Farrelly, and Mr William Martucci, format and commercial concept expert, formerly in charge of commercial evaluations for UEFA Club Competitions.

The formal launch event as opened by Mr Margaritas Schinas, Vice-President of the European Commission: “Elite clubs keep playing all season at the expense of small clubs who are in fact the pillar of the European Sports Model,” he said. “We commend your objectives as the UEC, and you should also take credit for your contribution to solidarity.” Later he tweeted: “In our European Model of Sport, all Football Clubs need to be heard and treated equally. Size should not matter. Today’s launch of the @clubs_union is a strong commitment to European solidarity and togetherness. Transparency, meritocracy and unity keep European football strong.”

This was followed by an address of a Member of European Parliament, Mr Tomasz Frankowski, who added a strong support for the initiative by pointing out that “[w]hat is most important, is that the ecosystem of the European football pyramid functions in the interest of all stakeholders, not one particular group […] It is important that [inadequately represented and unrepresented] clubs are able to speak up. Other stakeholders must listen to their concerns and find a way forward together. Indeed, from my interactions with football stakeholders, I know that the forums to listen to the UEC exist and the avenues to make sure you all work together in unity are there.

”The two EU officials echoed the sentiments of the EU sports policy that strongly supports unity, representativeness and inclusiveness in the governance of football.

Clubs present at the event underscored the need for the UEC initiative at the discussion panel composed of Mr Gudasic, and the representatives from Union Saint-Gilloise FC and Crystal Palace FC. Mr Alex Muzio, the president of the Brussels-based Royale Union Saint-Gilloise FC hosted the first UEC gathering with clubs prior to the formal meeting, pointed out that “ECA is dominated by bigger teams and the voice of clubs like his is not really there.” Mr Steve Parish, the chairman of Crystal Palace was unequivocal that “there is a lack of representation” and “all concepts of fairness are going out the window” in today’s football environment.

The event concluded with the speech of Javier Tebas, the president of Spanish LaLiga, voicing a strong support for the UEC emphasizing support for all clubs. “The new Union of EuropeanClubs can help solve an important problem in football governance by truly representing clubs,”he said.

Watch the full replay of the event

Download the press release