ECA Chief Executive Charlie Marshall has called for a simpler approach to European football governance to ensure increased solidarity among the game’s stakeholders.

Marshall spoke at the EU Sport Forum on Wednesday 17 April in Liège, Belgium, joining fellow stakeholders from across European football, in a panel discussion on “New Perspectives for the European Football Ecosystem”, which was moderated by Georg Häusler, Director, Sport, Culture and Creativity, DG EAC, European Commission.

Key topics included the International Match Calendar, Governance and the European Sports Model, following the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruling on the European Super League, and Regulation of Football.

Alongside some of the major figures in European football, Marshall said that Governance often suffered from being too broadly defined, stating: “When you overlay the complexity of the football ecosystem, it compounds the issues facing football.”

He added: “We need to make governance more simple. It’s not perfect, but it’s not completely broken. Football has proved so successful in sustaining the European Sports Model through solidarity and shown how strong it has been in meeting challenges. Those challenges – such as the European Super League - can actually be overhyped and overblown. It was basically killed in 48 hours by the fans and by the drivers of the European Sports Model, which remains robust.”

Marshall said that all of this was enabled by “an incredible product”, which “sits in people’s bloodstreams and provides the greatest entertainment that world has. Europe should be hugely proud of that.

“What we must not do is damage this. We must not get mired in complexity and fragmented decision making and depress the potential we have got. We must keep European football at the top of the tree.”

The ECA’s Chief Executive was supported by Alberto Colombo, Deputy Secretary General, European Leagues. Colombo, making a distinction between global football governance and European, outlined the example of increasing solidarity payments to clubs. He said: “We had a good discussion with UEFA and ECA on solidarity and financial rules. There is strong improvement there.”

Regarding the International Match Calendar, there was broad agreement among the panel that it needed to be streamlined. Charlie Marshall said the reason the calendar was so complex was that there were so many forms of football overlapping and they all need to be knitted together.

He said: “The men’s calendar is a consequence of what I was saying earlier about too much complexity in that there has been something of a land-grab for calendar space. It's difficult to look at the calendar and not say we are maxed out.

“European football is not NFL. The reason we have complex calendars is that there are so many forms overlapping and all need to be knitted together.

“We now need to use better science with more collaboration to look at how we protect what we have.

“There is a critical but sometimes fragile relationship between clubs and national teams in releasing players. This system of release and communication can be vastly improved for the benefit of everyone, especially the players. We need better sharing of medical information, and a more trusting relationship around player health and injuries. Clubs see too many times players who have injuries called up by national teams, made to fly thousands of miles to be checked out by the national team and then sent back.”

Marshall outlined a concept between ECA and UEFA and other stakeholders, called the Collaboration Charter. He added: “It is an attempt to get deep and proper oversight and independence to look into these issues.”

Marshall also talked about ECA’s work in preventing the early call-up of women club players for international duty. “This is a real headache and ECA and UEFA are closely aligned to try to eradicate those old practices,” he said.

The panel also touched on Regulation, following the proposed introduction in England of an Independent Regulator.

Marshall said: “Any debate on regulating sport should start with a discussion about the current regulators. Ensuring institutions are fit for purpose is where debate should happen. In England we seem to have crossed the Rubicon already.”

The panel also included Nadine Keßler, UEFA Managing Director of Women’s Football; Maheta Molango, Board Member, FIFPRO and CEO, PFA; Stuart Dykes, Director EU and Institutional Affairs, Football Supporters Europe; and Dennis Gudasic, Executive Director, Lokomotiva Zagreb FC and co-founder, UEC.