Daily Mirror

BEAUTIFUL GAME’S UGLY CIVIL WAR

Both sides blame each other but at the heart of the row is one

- BY JOHN CROSS Chief Football Writer @johncrossm­irror

CIVIL WAR has broken out within European football after a dramatic power grab by the biggest clubs.

The Premier League’s Big Six – Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea – have been heavily involved in a clandestin­e plot which threatens to blow football apart.

Fans are in uproar, outraged by what they see as blatant greed.

Football’s governing bodies have expressed their anger.

And even the Government has condemned the plan as a “closed shop”.

The timing is perhaps the most devilish thing about the whole plot, because UEFA were due to announce their own new-look 36-team Champions League today.

It has been clear for weeks that not all clubs are on board with that and bitter rows have broken out between Europe’s top clubs and UEFA.

Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli (below) is the driving force of the breakaway plot as he is also chairman of the influentia­l European Club Associatio­n (ECA).

Last month, the ECA caused UEFA to postpone another announceme­nt over their plans for a post2024 breakaway European league.

Now they have blown UEFA out of the water again

– and do not expect them to back down or show any doing so.

They knew exactly what they were doing, because as the weeks and months have gone by they have become increasing­ly annoyed by UEFA trying to rush ahead amid fears there would be a public announceme­nt of an agreement, even though there was no such thing.

What Agnelli has failed to do so far is publicly explain why the big clubs feel they have been driven to this. And they feel if the fans truly understood then their accusation­s of greed would be turned on UEFA rather than the clubs. The row centres on the clubs wanting a greater share of the commercial rights and the TV deal, and they believe UEFA should primarily be the sort of remorse for competitio­n’s regulator, commercial partner.

The clubs are annoyed that UEFA take such a huge slice of profits when it is the clubs, on the back of a crippling pandemic, who are taking all the risk by buying the players and putting on all the games, and they are the ones selling the tickets.

They have backed down from initial plans to include more clubs based on coefficien­ts – qualifying by previous European success – and reaching next year’s Champions League merely by getting through the knockout stage.

But they feel as if UEFA are not meeting them halfway and not involving them in discussion­s, yet want to pocket all of the rewards. In their eyes, it is UEFA being greedy.

The clubs have yet to reach agreement with UEFA on Financial Fair not the

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