UEFA reacts to European Super League - full statement

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April 19 (Reuters) - UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin spoke to media on Monday to respond to a proposed breakaway European Super League and present changes to the format of the European Champions League from 2024.

Here is his full statement:

"We began this project (new Champions League format) to modernise the competitions in early 2019, guided by the principle that it should be an exercise in inclusive leadership.

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"At the start of this process, driven by a desire to evolve the UEFA club competitions into something better than the spectacle we know today, with the unanimous support of the European Club Association, ECA, we consulted widely across the game.

"Teams will always qualify and compete in our competitions on merit, not a closed shop run by a select few. That was our decision from the beginning, and any club and its fans should still have the dream of participating in the Champions League based on its results on the pitch.

"I cannot stress more strongly at this moment: UEFA and the footballing world stand united against the disgraceful, self-serving proposal we have seen in the last 24 hours from a select few clubs in Europe that are fuelled purely by greed.

"And not only football is united, all the society is united, governments are united, it's part of our culture, we are all united against this nonsense of a project.

"We have the English FA, Spanish federation, Italian federation, Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, but also FIFA, all our 55 member associations - unanimous in our opposition to these cynical plans, that are completely against what football should be.

"Our game has become the greatest sport in the world based on open competition, integrity and sporting merit, and we cannot allow and we will not allow that to change. Never, ever.

"As previously announced by FIFA and the six (continental) federations, the players who will play in teams that might play in the closed league will be banned from playing in the World Cup and Euros, so they will not be able to represent their national teams at any matches.

"We urge everyone - from the millions of football lovers around the world, the world's media gathered on this call today, politicians and football's governing bodies - to stand tall with us, as we do everything in our power to ensure this never ends up in fruition.

"I wholeheartedly believe - we all do - that the changes we announce now (to the Champions League) are exactly the required next step in football's evolution.

"They are exciting, and in their heart retain the values of the game we all love.

"We will also be introducing a new support structure, built on a revised financial model, that boosts revenues for participants and, importantly, sees solidarity payments increase as well, driving a positive impact across the European game, right down to the grassroots

"I want to emphasise today what many of the fans don't know: UEFA distributes close to 90% of all the revenues back to the game, not to the professionals only.

"We finance youth, we finance grassroots, we finance women's football, we have a foundation, a children's foundation, that has a great charity project - so whoever thinks Super League is about money and UEFA is about money as well is not right.

"Super League is only about money, money of the dozen, I don't want to call them dirty dozen - but UEFA is about developing football, and about financing what should be financed, that our football, our culture, survives - and some people don't understand it.

"The Champions League reforms preserve the value and importance of the domestic game, by retaining the principle that domestic performance should be key to qualification. This should and will not ever change.

"The European game is the greatest success of modern sport, and there's a reason why, because of the pyramid, because of its long history, we are constantly adapting the European competition to ensure it's more and more interesting, more and more modern. But the principles cannot change.

"Solidarity is something that stays forever. For some people, solidarity doesn't exist. Unity doesn't exist. The only thing that exists is their pockets. Ultimately, we believe that these changes and the support structure we are implementing can protect what our sport is all about.

"The new format preserves open competition in Europe, it recognises all values, the importance of domestic football and, crucially, the world's leading elite club competitions remain the driving force that supports the entire structure of European football.

"I would like to thank all the football family, meaning players, fans, coaches, national associations, leagues and clubs as well.

"I would like to thank governments all around Europe, I would like to especially thank Prime Minister Johnson, President Macron, Vice-President of European Commission Mr Schinas, President of European Parliament Mr Sassoli, and all the other leaders around Europe who respect our fans, who respect our culture, who respect the values that are European values, not only football values.

"By my opinion, this idea is a spit in the face of all football lovers, and our society as well, so we will not allow them to take it away from us."

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Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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