LONDON • Premier League clubs have come out fighting in the face of sweeping proposals to change the Champions League format, insisting they will "vigorously defend" the domestic game.
The 20 teams issued a statement after a meeting in London on Friday when they were told of moves by the European Clubs' Association (ECA) to significantly expand the number of European matches, and replace the system where the top four English teams qualify for the Champions League.
The chairmen were told that the threats to the league were two-fold. Firstly, changes to the calendar from 2024 could see the slots available for domestic games cut and those for Europe increased.
Secondly, changing the Champions League to four groups of eight teams, with promotion and relegation rather than teams qualifying from domestic leagues, would negatively impact on the race for the top four, one of the driving forces of fan interest.
The statement read: "All clubs unanimously agreed it is inappropriate for European football bodies to create plans that would alter the structures, calendar and competitiveness of the domestic game and will work together to protect the Premier League."
The extra matches - from six to 14 - would require a radical shake-up of the club calendar. But the clubs have been told that it is a real possibility - the calendar for after 2024 is being determined by the ECA along with Uefa and Fifa.
While legal action is a possibility if the fixture calendar is affected, they also have support from the European Leagues organisation. Lars-Christer Olsson, its president, said: "Our main objective is to safeguard domestic competitions."
THE TIMES, LONDON