UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin believes scrapping the League Cup would be no great loss to English football and EFL clubs could be compensated for reduced income, to make more room for European matches.
The competition, currently known as the Carabao Cup, has been played for sixty years and generates around £90 million per season in revenue. It is a lifeline for clubs in League One, Two and the Championship.
But the cup has become a problem for UEFA as it plans a huge expansion of the Champions League, which under current plans would increase the number of games in the group phase from six to 10 and grow by 100 matches overall to 225 per season from 2024.
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The fixture calendar in England is particularly congested, partly as a result of the Carabao Cup, making it difficult to squeeze in the extra matches.
Most European countries have already abandoned their second cup competition, most recently in France, where the tournament was curtailed the season before last, due to coronavirus, and is now unlikely to return.
‘It’s not my decision but I think that English football would not lose much if you lose that cup,’ Ceferin told the Telegraph.
‘There are some financial incentives for the lower tier teams but they should compensate that in another way. The thing is whatever we want to do we have to change the ecosystem.’
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin suggested scrapping Carabao Cup would be no great loss
It is not the first time that Ceferin has targeted the Carabao Cup. He said in March it would be ‘better for everyone’ if the competition was dropped, which prompted a furious response from EFL clubs.
‘He means better for the big boys,’ pointed out one EFL club chief executive spoken to by Sportsmail at the time. ‘There would be a big cost to all EFL clubs if that went, under the current model of funding.’
The Carabao Cup generates around £80m annually in TV revenue under a deal with Sky, and in a contract initially settled in 2017 it brought in a further £6m per year from Carabao.
Championship side Brentford knocked out Newcastle in last season’s competition
Brentford lost out in the semi-final to Tottenham, and Manchester City lifted the trophy
Some of the money is distributed to clubs through EFL central funding and some goes directly to competing clubs.
Last season, Championship side, Brentford made the semi-finals, and Stoke City the quarter-finals, before perennial winners Manchester City lifted the trophy with a 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur.
The final in April was a celebration, not just for the winners, but the match was also a landmark on the road to returning fans to stadiums following the coronavirus pandemic.
There were 8,000 supporters present at Wembley, which was the largest attendance at that stage.
Manchester City lifted the Carabao Cup in front of 8,000 fans at Wembley in April
Manchester City fans enjoyed their day at Wembley watching their side beat Spurs 1-0
However, the League Cup remains an impediment to the Champions League expansion plans, which are coming under increasing pressure in the aftermath of the European Super League.
One result of an expanded Champions League could be for the country’s top teams to play weakened sides in the domestic competition. EFL executives believe that would undermine the value of the cup competition, and it does not appeal to Ceferin, either.
‘We cannot say that Uefa does financial fair play and the leagues don’t. We cannot say there is a limited squad for the Champions League but in the league you can have 150 players,’ he said.
‘These are things we have to align. I don’t want to force it too much because it’s not my jurisdiction to push the leagues but we try to present our arguments.’
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Last week, the European Leagues, which includes the Premier League, made clear that they were still pushing to reduce the number of group matches in the expanded competition.
The Leagues’ representative on UEFA’s executive committee, Javier Tebas, said: ‘UEFA should work in coordination with the domestic leagues. Ten matches are too much.’
Tebas, who is also the president of the Spanish LaLiga, added: ‘For me, it would be better for six, but we can agree to eight.’
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And Steve Parish has been a consistent advocate for the League Cup, as well as balance between European competition and domestic football.
‘I am very concerned about the original proposals that were made about the increases to [the number of matches in] the calendar…’ he told the European Leagues’ Meeting in Madrid.
Parish said he believed ‘there is a large momentum for change and we must change some of these current UEFA proposals to suit everybody around Europe’.
And he added: ‘We need to come together and use this momentum [of the failed Super League] to understand better everybody’s problems around Europe.
‘We need to understand the befit to other European countries of an extended, broader Champions League and Europa League against the threat it has to the calendar hereto some very old competitions, like the League Cup that sustain a lot of lower league teams with the income.’