The European Club Association (ECA), the body that connects over 250 top-tier soccer clubs across the continent, has launched the 'ECA Network' for up to 160 entrant sides across Europe.

Announcing the network's launch yesterday (September 1), the ECA said it is based on services and knowledge and will “enable more clubs across the continent to access expert advisory, education, knowledge sharing, and research services.”

Eligible teams have already been contacted with registration forms.

Its launch will “lead to a wider interaction with a broader base of clubs who all have ambitions of reaching new levels of professionalism and competitiveness in a European context,” the ECA has said.

The services will include assistance across areas including legal, financial, commercial, competitions, and women’s and youth soccer development.

It has been launched with more clubs across Europe receiving solidarity payments from the monies garnered through the main club competitions – the top-tier UEFA Champions League, the second-tier UEFA Europa League, and the third-tier UEFA Europa Conference League, which launched last season.

Through a recent agreement between the ECA and UEFA, the continental governing body, clubs across developing soccer countries in Europe will now receive significantly more in solidarity payments than before.

Indeed, outside of the top 5 leagues – the English Premier League, Spain’s LaLiga, Germany’s Bundesliga, the French Ligue 1, and Italy’s Serie A – the top leagues in all other countries will receive double the amount of solidarity funding, on average. 

The ECA initially said that it would launch a network for aspiring teams as one of the announcements coming out of its 2022 executive board meeting, held on August 25.

Charlie Marshall, chief executive at the ECA, has said: "With the ECA Network we are extending the reach of our professional services to a new set of clubs that are knocking on the door of Europe. By sharing the knowledge and experience ECA has gained over 15 years of its existence, working with the top clubs across all European countries, we hope to be able to offer valuable services and tools to a broader base of clubs.”

In other developments from the ECA’s executive board meeting, the body reiterated its “full support” for the new European club soccer financial distribution model post-2024, which was agreed by that body with UEFA last year.

With the 2024-25 pan-European club competitions set to see an increase in the number of clubs participating, from 96 to 108 (to go with a new Champions League format), the ECA said that “the importance of rewarding and incentivizing success on the pitch must remain – with more clubs to benefit.”

The board said, meanwhile, that it had “strongly agreed” to work alongside UEFA to ensure that the finances brought in by the UCL continue to fund the development of the two other men’s European club competitions, as well as the Women’s Champions League.

These competitions have been described as vital for ECA members and for fans across Europe.

The audited financial report for 2021-22 and the new budget for 2022-23 were also approved for ratification at the 28th ECA general assembly, which will be held in Istanbul on September 22 and 23.