UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has leapt to the defence of the Premier League amid concerns its success is creating an imbalance in European football.
The gap between the English top flight and Europe’s other big leagues in terms of broadcasting revenues and transfer spending has been highlighted as a problem by a number of observers of the sport at continental level, including LaLiga president and UEFA executive committee member Javier Tebas and Super League promoters A22.
But at the UEFA Congress on Wednesday, Ceferin said the Premier League should be applauded not attacked for its success.
The Slovenian said: “We must never forget that jealousy has never been a good counsellor.
“A few months ago, UEFA and its club competitions were being blamed for all the evils in football and the inequalities within the leagues. Today, it’s the English Premier League that seems to be under attack.
“Since the British government, supporters and clubs said no to the Super League, the Premier League has been demonised and labelled a Super League in its own right that needs to be toppled.
“However, the Premier League’s success was not achieved by accident. By adopting an audacious approach based on a vision, a strategy and a lot of hard work, its leaders and clubs developed a remarkable model founded on sporting merit and a highly egalitarian distribution of wealth – one of the most egalitarian systems in the world.
“Rather than a model to be destroyed, this is a model that should be followed.”
He also highlighted the statistics which showed that despite the English league’s financial dominance, its clubs had by no means dominated at continental level.
He added: “Let me reassure those who fear that English football will crush everything that stands in its way. The figures do not lie: in the last 20 years, the Champions League has been won on five occasions by English clubs.
“Only twice in the last decade an English club has lifted the iconic trophy with the big ears…”
He pointed out that Italy had the most quarter-finalists in this season’s Champions League and Europa League, with Belgium having the most representatives left in the Europa Conference League.
“This season 17 countries, 17 domestic leagues from everywhere in Europe played the round of 16 of UEFA club competitions. Football is still for everyone,” he added.
“But it is true that jealousy sees everything except the truth.”
Ceferin, who was re-elected unopposed for a new four-year term in Lisbon later on Wednesday, appeared to allude to UEFA’s culpability in the chaos which surrounded last season’s Champions League final.
An independent report commissioned by UEFA and published in February said European football’s governing body bore “primary responsibility for failures” which almost led to the match in Paris last May becoming a “mass fatality catastrophe”.
Serious congestion problems outside the Stade de France in Paris saw thousands of Liverpool fans penned in against perimeter fences and stuck in a motorway underpass ahead of the game against Real Madrid.
Ceferin said towards the end of his speech at UEFA Congress: “We must never forget the mistakes of the past and we must remain humble at all times.
“Nothing can ever be taken for granted.
“Unfortunately, unlike goalkeepers, leaders can never keep a ‘clean sheet’. No leader can boast an unblemished record, however much they invest and however passionate, professional or experienced they are.
“There are always a few stains, a few mistakes that tarnish our reputation, errors they would love to erase. I am no different and UEFA is no different. The most important thing is to understand the mistake and change, not to repeat them.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub