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Soccer-European leagues to end fixture-clash agreement with UEFA

By Brian Homewood

ZURICH (Reuters) - Europe's soccer leagues escalated the dispute with UEFA over recent Champions League changes on Friday when they said they would end the agreement which ensures that European and domestic fixtures do not clash.

Lars-Christer Olsson, chairman of the leagues' umbrella organisation (EPFL), said they had been left with "no option but to end the memorandum of understanding" after European soccer's governing body announced changes to the Champions League, its elite club competition, in August.

At present, domestic leagues avoid organising matches on days which UEFA has allocated to European competition. The EPFL said this will now end in March next year.

UEFA reorganised the lucrative Champions League group stage to guarantee the top four European leagues - currently Spain, Germany, England and Italy - four places each.

Guaranteed places for the winners of the 11th and 12th ranked leagues - currently Switzerland and the Czech Republic - were cut and the number of places reserved for teams from the remaining leagues, who play their way through a qualifying competition, was reduced from five to four.

UEFA also announced changes in the distribution of revenue with more emphasis placed on clubs' historic sporting results and less on the value of their television market.

The changes will take effect from the 2018-19 season with critics saying UEFA had moved a step closer to creating a closed Super League for the biggest clubs.

The EPFL said they were not consulted about the changes and want a renegotiation.

"We have to be able to involve our leagues in such a decision because it is so important," Olsson said. "We should be prepared to discuss it again."

He added that the new system for distributing revenue from European competitions would further increase the financial gap between the big clubs and the rest.

The EPFL said it was also to maintain a system where clubs' participation is based on their results, rather than other criteria.

"We would like to see a preservation of the basic values of European football which is based on sporting merit," said Claus Thomsen, chairman of the Danish league and an EPFL board member.

"This is the unique thing that fans like about European football."

Claudius Schaeffer, chief executive of the Swiss league, said the revenue FC Basel earned in the Champions League had opened up a financial gulf between them and their rivals.

"Some clubs are making so much money that you don't have competitive balance any more in your own championship," he said.

"(FC Basel) have a good president and look to the future but the second part is that the money the receive money is much higher than what we can offer to our clubs."

(Editing by Toby Davis and Ed Osmond)

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