European football is in danger of killing the “dream” of small clubs, according to FC Midtjylland chairman Rasmus Ankersen, as he expects the 2024 reform of the Champions League to make it “more of a closed league for the big teams”.
The Danish side take on Liverpool on Tuesday amid a wider discussion about the future of the game, and the English champions’ push for a controversial plan like Project Big Picture. Through all this, there have been ongoing negotiations about what the Champions League will look like after 2024, as figures like Juventus owner Andrea Agnelli push for something closer to a super league.
Ankersen has been involved in European Club Association meetings due to being chairman of Midtjylland and fears the way the game is going will kill the “dream” of fixtures for them like trips to Liverpool.
“I think Midtjylland is a good example of, you know, the importance of keeping the dream alive for small clubs,” Ankersen said. “I've been taking part in all these ECA meetings in the past few years, where all the conversations are what the future is going to look like in European football, and listen, I think, unfortunately the way it's going, there's going to be some reforms coming up in the next years, they will move football towards becoming more of a closed league for the big teams.
“But I think it's really important for football, too, because that's the fairytale we love, to follow that it's actually possible for a team like Midtjylland, from a small town with 50,000 people in the middle of nowhere in the west of Denmark, to go and play on the biggest stage. So I hope that opportunity will still be kept alive for us, and other teams in similar positions, but I think it's going to be more and more difficult.”
Asked about the reasoning, Ankersen put it down to the global ambitions of the super-clubs, but insisted the sport should be more mindful of solidarity.
“I think it's obviously a financial game, it's like, how can you increase your revenue, these brands are becoming more global, and when you look at the TV figures, you also have to admit what drives the TV figures are typically the big teams playing, and I think they want to have more stability in their revenue streams, because football is still random. That's also what we love, a small team can beat a big team, maybe not over a season of 40 games, but over one or two games it's possible, so football is brutal in a sense, often small margins that means whether you get a big chunk of revenue or you don't, so you want more stability, more guarantees that they have this revenue coming in every year, so, it happens on a domestic level as well in Denmark. Midtjylland is now a big club, we have to negotiate the TV deals with the big, and there are small clubs thinking like we do in relation to the Champions League clubs, and it remains important that it doesn't only become a matter of financials, but there's also a value of solidarity you nurture and let exist within the system to be part of the best company still.
“You just have to look at the way the Champions League money is distributed. Already, before the first kick-off, there is a big difference between the amount we are receiving within the Champions League, and obviously that becomes a reinforcing thing, the rich get richer, and that's where it's going.”