Jean-Michel Aulas, the powerful president of leading French club Lyon, has admitted that supporters of his side are “fundamentally opposed” to any plans for a breakaway European Super League.
“Our supporters who we have spoken to are fundamentally opposed to a private European league,” said Aulas at a press conference to reveal the latest financial results of OL Groupe, Lyon’s listed holding company.
Aulas added that clubs “need to listen to the cultural and social demands of supporters. I think in France they are rather against a private European league.” Once France’s dominant club, Lyon made it to the semi-finals of last season’s Champions League but last won Ligue 1 in 2008.
These days they struggle to keep up domestically with the might of Paris Saint-Germain, although they are comfortably France’s second-richest club. The latest Deloitte Football Money League listed OL as the world’s 18th-richest club with revenue last year of 180.7 million euros, one-third of the revenues of PSG.
Documents containing details of the plans for a breakaway Super League were reported last month by British newspaper The Times, and proposed a 20-club tournament with 15 permanent members, including the English Premier League’s ‘Big Six’, three each from Spain and Italy, and two from Germany. However, there was only place guaranteed for France, with a total of five more places decided annually.
Lyon would therefore appear better off with UEFA’s plans for a reformed Champions League from 2024 onwards. Those would see the group stage expanded to include 36 teams rather than the current 32, with France — as the fifth-ranked European nation — expected to be given an extra place.
At the moment England, Spain, Germany and Italy are all guaranteed four places in the group stage, while France only has two guaranteed, plus one more berth in the qualifying rounds.
“The new UEFA proposition would see the fifth nation get three places in the group stage, plus one in the qualifying rounds,” Aulas said. “That would allow us to fix what is an anomaly among the big nations. The UEFA solution seems the best balanced in the current context.”
Aulas also revealed that UEFA “will push in favour” of national leagues being reduced to a maximum of 18 teams in future “to avoid players playing too many matches”. Among the ‘Big Five’ European leagues only the German Bundesliga currently contains 18 teams, with the rest all comprised of 20 clubs.