UEC letter to clubs and stakeholders - Whose interests does ECA really represent?

The UEC sent a letter this week to European football clubs and stakeholders in order to explain the UEC’s main objections regarding ECA's modus operandi

September 22, 2023



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Download the full letter here

Executive Summary

The European Club Association (ECA) was born out of “elitist” and unrecognised G14, an economic pressure group formed in 1998 to represent the business interests of top 18 European clubs. “Official recognition of clubs as formal stakeholders within football governance has been achieved through threats of secession and litigation” – G14 promised to disband and re-form in a body with broader club representation, in exchange for withdrawing lawsuits against governing bodies. ECA was then established and included more clubs, but the majority of the Board members were G14. This elitist structure remains regardless of any reforms that have taken place recently.

The latest ECA General Assembly took place in Berlin on 6-7 Sept, and many clubs have been invited to attend. Most of them did not have a right to vote and most of the decisions have already been taken before the event started. Many of clubs were placed in a separate room while ECA leaders decided on important issues affecting their future. As reported recently, “one delegate from a leading European club suggested [...] that the extravagance on show was to wow smaller clubs.” In the light of the Union of European Clubs (the UEC), a new club representative organisation entering the scene, ECA has been trying hard to prevent the clubs from joining the UEC, organisation that offers a counterbalance to the influence of ECA in the governance of European football, treats its Member Clubs equally, operates “one-club-one vote” principle, while representing their specific interest.

By contrast, in ECA, Network Members are not allowed to vote and are not even mentioned in the ECA Statutes, while Associate Members of the ECA do not have any tangible way to influence the decisions or vote for those members with power to vote on the Board. Both of these categories of membership serve one purpose – to divert the attention from the lack of democratic structures; the fact that ECA is led by unelected Chairman who has major conflict of interest being a Chairman of the Qatari sports channel beIN Sports that buys TV rights from UEFA, while sitting on UEFA Executive Committee; and to provide ECA with legitimacy arising out of the broader membership. ECA claims to provide some services for these clubs – but the reason that ECA club services exist is to mitigate the damage caused to the clubs by ECA’s own existence and influence. Clubs should never accept these scraps in exchange for equal treatment and real representation of their interest that is the only way to bring about changes, sustainability, and more balanced ecosystem. Without ability to represent their interests in the governance, they have no ability to progress in sporting and financial terms.

There is also a big difference even between the ECA Ordinary Members who have full voting rights in terms of their influence and places reserved for them on the ECA Board. Whereas clubs coming from six top national associations reserved for themselves half of the Board places, clubs coming from 49 other associations have the other half.

It should not be up to the elite clubs to decide on how much influence they want to give to others. All clubs are entitled to equal voting rights, equal Board places, and equal influence over the rules that govern them regardless of their wealth. Small and medium sized clubs (however defined) are the lifeblood of the European football, the very core of the football pyramid that feed and support it, and without which there would be no apex.

It should not be forgotten that SuperLeague was born out of the elitist tendencies fostered by big clubs in ECA – the clubs that were involved in the SuperLeague project, are now back to the ECA Board, while still being a part of the SuperLeague shareholder agreement.

For the first time since 2008, clubs have an alternative to ECA - the UEC is the organisation with the mission to give voice in European football governance to the clubs that are unrepresented or are inadequately represented in the existing structures. The UEC brings the collective power through unity, offers “one-club-one-vote” equality for all its members and presents a game changer in the European football governance. As the organisation develops and its membership grows, the UEC will seek a formal recognition as a stakeholder in the European football system and as a Social Dialogue Partner in the EU institutions.