One-horse race leagues will drive fans away, says EPFL

AMSTERDAM • Five. That was the number of games left to spare in the English Premier League, German Bundesliga and French Ligue 1 as Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain turned the race for their respective league titles into processions.

And on Monday, the European Leagues (EPFL) umbrella group said the development did not augur well for the future, warning that some European fans would shun football if domestic championships become too predictable.

The trio wrapped up their league titles with consummate ease while Barcelona need only a point to win the Spanish LaLiga with four games remaining.

This leaves Italy's Serie A as the only one of Europe's top five championships with a genuine title race.

Many smaller European leagues like the Scottish Premier League have also turned into one-horse races and EPFL president Lars-Christer Olsson said after a meeting with some of the clubs that "failure to make changes will hurt the future of European football".

The EPFL argued that the distribution of revenue from the elite Champions League competition creates a snowball effect because a greater proportion of money goes to the clubs who are already the wealthiest.

They fear that changes to the tournament's format from next year, when more places will be allocated to the bigger leagues, will increase the disparity between richer and poorer clubs even further.

"We need to avoid getting into a negative cycle, where we would see our fan base erode and we would lose our position as the world's dominating sport," Dutch Eredivisie chief executive officer Jacco Swart said.

Olsson added that the EPFL would strive for a more even distribution of revenue across all teams in Europe and to keep European competitions open to clubs from all countries.

"The set-up of the European competitions needs to support the domestic competitions, with good representation of the different leagues," he said.

"If countries don't have clubs competing, it will reduce the value of their national competition."

The Swede added he was hopeful that changes would be made for the next European competition cycle, starting in 2021.

"We think the decision-makers within Uefa (European football's governing body) are wise," Olsson said.

"If they are, there will certainly be changes for the coming cycle."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2018, with the headline 'One-horse race leagues will drive fans away, says EPFL'. Print Edition | Subscribe