The dust is settling on the failed bid of 12 clubs to form a breakaway Super League but Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley still fears a widening divide between big and small leagues in Europe is inevitable.
Bradley’s reward for masterminding the Hoops’ first title since 2011 is a place in the first round of the Champions League in July.
Although that feat grosses the club €1m, the prospects of progression through the qualifying rounds are becoming increasingly remote, leaving Irish clubs reliant on the Europa League for success. The new Conference League launching later this year should provide extra scope, albeit further away from the top table.
As a former apprentice at Arsenal, the 36-year-old can understand why clubs of their stature are flexing their muscles. This week’s setback, he insists, will only motivate the rich into striving to become richer.
“I actually think it will bring it forward,” the Rovers boss said when asked if the backlash would stymie the desire of US, Russian, and Saudi owners to monopolise the European sphere.
“They have brought the Champions League to the brink this week. That’s an unbelievable negotiating tool.
“Uefa and Fifa now know that they’re serious. Clubs currently get half of the revenue in prize money, which is a lot, but they want more of the pie and will get it now. What this week has shown is that there’s definitely something coming down the line.
“The Champions League will have to be a different format at some point. Uefa and Fifa will have to sit down with the top clubs to think and talk about it.”
Bradley feels the cartel’s biggest error was planning without relegation, a condition he can see being sacrificed when they return with an updated project.
“The super clubs read it wrong in terms of having no relegation and a closed house,” said Bradley.
That franchise type of scenario is never going to work. The current Champions League format gives small nations a chance to compete against the super clubs in the draw.
“That’s the whole point of football. You aspire to be in the Champions League, aspire to play AC Milan like we did last year, and do what Dundalk did by getting to the Europa League group stages.
“I’m delighted this hasn’t got through but they’ll be back and changes are definitely coming.”