Former West Germany forward Karl-Heinz Rummenigge will not run for re-election as head of the European Club Association (ECA), he announced on Thursday.
Rummenigge, who is also chief executive of German champions Bayern Munich, has been head of the ECA since it was founded in 2008, having been re-elected three times.
Rummenigge said his eight years in charge had been intense and successful, but critics say changes during that time have favoured big clubs over the rest. Those changes have also made football more predictable, they say, with the same teams reaching the decisive stages of the Champions League every year.
“I have always believed this office should only be held for a limited amount of time,” Rummenigge said in an ECA statement. “My withdrawal from office expresses my sincerity concerning this issue.”
Under Rummenigge’s leadership, the ECA last year negotiated fundamental changes to the Champions League with European soccer body UEFA, which gave more places to teams from the biggest European leagues.
Two years ago, the ECA negotiated with FIFA a threefold increase in the amount of money paid to clubs who release players for the World Cup. Under the agreement, the ruling body will hand out $209 million in both 2018 and 2022, compared with $70 million in 2014.
More recently, the ECA has criticised FIFA’s decision to increase the size of the World Cup to 48 teams from 32, starting in 2026.
Rummenigge has denied that ECA policies have been detrimental to the smaller clubs. He blames any competitive imbalance on the 1995 Bosman ruling, in which the European Court of Justice barred transfer fees for players out of contract.
“The European top clubs feel great solidarity with the medium-sized and smaller clubs, while these smaller clubs have an understanding for the needs of the big clubs,” Rummenigge said. “I am particularly proud of this fact.”
FIFA president Gianni Infantino said he regretted Rummenigge’s decision.
He said Rummenigge “tries to find constructive solutions for football while carefully considering its stakeholders, and no matter what role or function he holds, always strikes the right balance in this respect.”