Champions league reform plan stalls

Fair access and greater participation among ideas European club bosses want to pursue

GENEVA • Even though a radical proposal to reform the Champions League has stalled, European club leaders still want to pursue certain features of the plan.

European Club Association (ECA) leader Andrea Agnelli said on Tuesday he still wants to see "fairer access" to Uefa competitions in the future and that the fight for eight-team groups in 2024 will continue.

This is despite the failure to win support for the most controversial element of the ECA's proposal - making the competition a largely closed competition by giving 24 of the 32 teams guaranteed slots to return - which has been stopped after resistance from some of its members and top national leagues.

The proposed reforms also included the introduction of weekend fixtures, and that the 24 returning teams will come from a tiered system with relegation and promotion, which would see the top six teams in each group automatically qualify for the following year's competition.

Juventus and other storied elite clubs want eight-team groups to create a guarantee of 14 Champions League games per team. That is resisted by leagues in England, Spain, and elsewhere who fear their fixture dates and 20-team lineups being squeezed.

"It is a proposal on the table that is in the interests of all. And it is a good proposal," Agnelli said after being re-elected ECA chairman for four more years.

MORE CAN PLAY

It (the reform plan) has made everybody engage that there is a requirement for change. What is important is more European games... We want fair access, we want greater participation for minor countries.

ANDREA AGNELLI , European Club Association chairman, on its reform plan for the Champions League.

Still, he acknowledged the original plan "might not be the one that arrives first on the finish line".

The Uefa-led process will now likely take up to two years to reach a decision, after the ECA had hoped for an agreement by December.

Still, Agnelli struck a defiant tone at a news conference on Tuesday after a two-day ECA meeting.

He said: "It (the reform plan) has made everybody engage that there is a requirement for change. What is important is more European games... We want fair access, we want greater participation for minor countries.

"What we want to remain loyal with are our principles. That is what matters, in a unified environment, where all stakeholders can come together and think for the best of European football going forward."

ECA vice-chairman Dariusz Mioduski cautioned against a "narrative spun by top-five leagues".

The Legia Warsaw owner also recognised the original plan had "a number of issues... which are maybe not liked by everybody".

The 169-club meeting had been planned to arm Agnelli and other ECA leaders for a potentially decisive Uefa-hosted meeting yesterday with the European Leagues group. However, Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin cancelled the session last month because no agreement was in sight.

The reform plan also calls for a 64-team, third-tier competition by 2024. A block of votes from lower-ranked ECA members could outweigh reluctant clubs in the wealthier leagues.

Agnelli, like Mioduski, suggested satisfying all clubs was not possible - and was not even the aim.

Targeting a satisfaction rate of 70-80 per cent of his members, he said the Uefa process would "find a solution that fits the majority, not all. All is impossible".

Final approval will be given by the 20-member Uefa executive committee which includes one delegate from the leagues, but two from the ECA: Agnelli and Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi.

ASSOCIATED PRESS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2019, with the headline 'Champions league reform plan stalls'. Print Edition | Subscribe