Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish accepts UEFA’s revised plans for a new-look Champions League from the 2024-25 season do not sound “dreadful” but believes European football would benefit from an independent regulator.
Tuesday saw one of the key recommendations from Conservative MP Tracey Crouch’s fan-led review – to bring in an independent regulator of English Football – referenced in the Queen’s Speech before UEFA did a U-turn on its original proposal to give two clubs a path into the Champions League through historic performances.
Criticism from across Europe over the planned move to reward clubs on their coefficient eventually resulted in a change which was voted through during UEFA’s executive committee meeting in Vienna, where it was instead decided two extra Champions League places would go to the countries whose clubs collectively performed best in Europe during the previous campaign.
England’s top flight would have benefited from an extra space in four of the last five seasons under those terms and, while Parish accepts his Palace side potentially qualifying for the Champions League through a fifth-place finish would be great, the long-serving chairman does not feel it is right.
“What I know about what I have heard doesn’t sound dreadful but I would have to soak it all up,” he said at the club’s end-of-season awards night at BOXPARK Croydon.
“I would love Palace to finish fifth and get the Champions League, but if you ask me honestly as a football person, is that what UEFA should be doing? UEFA to me should be spreading the game across Europe.
“It is all short-term gain and ‘Let’s try get as many of these clubs in so we can get the most broadcast money’, which for me is wrong. For me, this tournament needs to be taken away from UEFA.
“We talk about an independent regulator over here overseeing everything, but European football needs somebody independent.”
During the Financial Times Business of Football Summit in March, Parish described UEFA as “the greatest enemy of domestic leagues that exists” in spite of the failed European Super League launch in 2021.
With the Champions League set to increase from 32 to 36 teams and switch to a ‘Swiss system’ in two years, Parish added: “I know they made a few more places available so finally the Ajax’s don’t have to qualify in the summer and the nonsense of all that stuff, so OK I get it and for the Premier League and maybe one day for Crystal Palace we will celebrate that and the Champions League.
“But I do have mixed feelings about it, because of the way it has arrived at that, and I don’t think it is for the right reasons.
“I don’t think it is what UEFA should be about. They should be about broadening the appeal of the game, taking a long-term view, and trying to bring other countries into it so in the end the game is bigger across Europe and in the end they are getting a bigger television audience but for me it is all short-termism.
“I think it is driven by political reasons and not for the best interests of the game… but if we finish fifth and we get the Champions League I’ll take it!”
The PA news agency has contacted UEFA for a comment.