UEFA keen to engage fans as direct stakeholders after Super League collapse

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Europa League - Round of 16 draw - Nyon, Switzerland - February 28, 2020 General view of the UEFA logo at UEFA Headquarters before the draw REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

(Reuters) - UEFA chief Aleksander Ceferin has met with Football Supporters Europe (FSE) and fan bodies from England and Spain over plans to build a direct stakeholder relationship with them, European soccer's governing body said on Thursday.

The meeting is part of UEFA's drive to engage more formally with fan organisations -- many of whom fiercely opposed the ill-fated European Super League plans of several top clubs last month.

"I have said on many occasions that fans are the heart of football and we need to do more to engage them as a legitimate stakeholder," Ceferin said in a statement on UEFA's website.

"They have much to contribute and we should give them a voice on important relevant matters."

The Super League was launched with 12 clubs as founders, but nine of them - Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid - have backed out and reached a deal with UEFA.

The deal involved the nine clubs making a donation totalling 15 million euros ($18 million) to be used for children, youth and grassroots football, as well as agreeing to a five percent withholding of any revenues they would receive from Champions League or Europa League involvement for one season.

Ceferin heaped praise on the fans of those clubs for their "vehement opposition" to the creation of the Super League.

"Through our mutual commitments to the European spirit of football, we can safeguard its unique and cherished pyramidal structure. We must be creative and innovative – together – and clear on our objectives going forward," Ceferin said.

FSE Executive Director Ronan Evain said that the meeting on Wednesday provided fans and UEFA with an opportunity to discuss lessons of the Super League crisis.

"The past few weeks have demonstrated the dangers of a football that only serves the interests of the elite. We must all redouble our efforts to make the game fairer and more sustainable," Evain said.

"We ... look forward to meaningful dialogue on the future of UEFA club competitions, away fans' rights, safe standing, and other issues that impact fans."

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(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)

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