European Leagues 2021 in review

It has been a challenging and very interesting year for the sports industry, our member leagues and the whole football community.

During 2021 football gave an extraordinary answer to the coronavirus pandemic. All our member leagues have been able – thanks to a superb effort from their leadership and staff and their clubs – to adapt their operations to a fast-changing environment and deliver their respective calendars with compelling competitions while bringing back fans to their favorite stadiums.

The first quarter of 2021 saw the European Leagues and their clubs very active in the debate related to the evolution of UEFA Club Competitions post-2024. On one hand, the expansion of the UCC calendar and the introduction of a coefficient-based system for the access to the new Champions League created some concerns within the football community. In this context the European Leagues believes it is important to discuss these issues in an open manner during the upcoming months. On the other hand, the increase of solidarity payments for non-participating clubs for the 21-24 UCC cycle represents a positive development and a trend to be further enhanced so to create a new UCC revenue distribution system which could help mitigate the great financial and sporting disparities currently affecting European football.

Early spring, the initiative to launch a breakaway Super League shocked the (football) world and it is still keeping some parts of our sector busy. The strong disapproving reaction of the football community, the millions of fans across Europe and the political institutions spoke for itself. Together we have been embracing the principle of solidarity, inclusion, open competition, and sporting merits to defend the European Sports Model as an important pillar of our culture. In this context, it is reassuring and welcoming to see the recent decisions by European public institutions (European Parliament, Council of European Union and Council of Europe) to protect these values and call for an improvement of the governance of sport and football in particular.

In this framework, it is of course relevant to mention the enhancement of cooperation and dialogue promoted by European Leagues with other football stakeholders.

With FIFPRO, for the common initiative to launch a Manifesto on Governance for European Football but also the joint agreement to tackle players’ Concussion incidents in domestic competitions.

With Fans Organisations, thanks to the new agreement of cooperation with Football Supporters Europe (FSE) and Supporters Direct Europe (SDE) which focuses on the protection of domestic football competitions and more importantly creates the basis for structured dialogue and enhanced bilateral collaboration between football fans and our member leagues across Europe.

With UEFA, with whom the European Leagues is having an open discussion within the framework of the Convention for the Future of European Football but also to create the basis for solid cooperation for the years to come.

With the Clubs, with the organization this year of two major meetings of our Club Advisory Platform (CAP) which gave a voice to all clubs across Europe regardless their dimension, their results or professional division.

In the area of stakeholders’ cooperation, it is important to stress how 2021 gave a new life to the European Social Dialogue, with the renewal of the Autonomous Agreement till 2023, the creation of a new Working Group with a focus on tailor-made analysis of labour conditions at national level and with the recent approval of a new working plan for 2022 which foresees for the first time the social partners to agree to enhancing together Equality, Diversity and Inclusion standards in European Football.

This year, the resolution tackling online piracy of live sport events was adopted by the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) with a big majority. The resolution considers the main challenge of sports events organisers, which is the protection of the economic value originating from the “live” nature of the broadcast. In order to help combat the shortcomings of the current EU framework on intellectual property rights for live sport events, the MEPs called on the Commission to come up with concrete remedies to tackle online piracy of live sporting events and, more specifically, called for the removal of illegal streams within thirty minutes. The European Leagues welcomed the adoption of the resolution and are ready to work with the EU Institutions during the upcoming months to create a specific legal framework which could protect sports and other live content industries from the threat of piracy.

In the area of Business and League development, the European Leagues and its Members had unprecedented positive developments during 2021 with the groundbreaking global nine competition broadcast deal for international media rights launched in cooperation with ELEVEN and OneFootball and for the ongoing renewal of the Fast Betting data deal. Our intention is to increase the number of participating leagues in these projects and to keep on exploring new business areas so as to collaborate with the companies we partner with in the most mutually beneficial way and grow the relationships over the long-term.

The European Leagues is growing its areas of engagement in the broad the spectrum of the football industry and as a natural result, the Association is also growing following a similar path. The European Leagues welcomed in 2021 new members, and it now includes 38 leagues and association of clubs representing more than 1000 professional football clubs from 59 football divisions and 31 European countries.

We knock at the door of 2022 ready to welcome new leagues and new clubs to further grow and together protect domestic competitions and the whole football ecosystem from new challenges, including the much-debated proposed reform on the International Match Calendar which was on top of the agenda of the football stakeholders during the past few months.

The coronavirus pandemic is unfortunately back with full force this winter to pose new challenges to the organization of sporting events once again but our Member Leagues are ready, experienced and well-positioned to face the difficulties and keep delivering the beautiful game to the fans.

With this positive spirit we wish all leagues, clubs, players, national associations, fans, partners and the whole football community a great festive season. We look forward to see you soon in 2022!


The European Leagues Team

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