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BC-SOC--European Competitions

May 7, 2019
AP Sports Writer

MADRID (AP) — The European Leagues organization says the vast majority of clubs are against plans by elite teams to radically change the format of the Champion League.

The organization said Tuesday after a meeting of more than 244 clubs in the Spanish capital that most of its members oppose the proposals submitted to UEFA by the European Club Association, which represents the top European clubs.

The ECA has favored an overhaul to the continent’s competitions from 2024, including the biggest changes to the Champions League since non-domestic champions were allowed entry in 1997.

European Leagues President Lars-Christer Olsson said the domestic leagues would be devalued by the changes that would fundamentally change the entry system to the Champions League, mostly benefiting the top clubs as they would have their places in the competition more easily secured.

“A lot of clubs made their position very clear, including clubs and representatives from ECA,” Olsson said. “The domestic competitions have to be the basis for the international competitions. The vast majority of our clubs believe that sporting merits should decide which teams should play in international competitions.”

The leagues want to make sure more domestic winners can have direct access to the Champions League instead of having to go through additional qualifying rounds to reach the main group stage. The leagues’ goal is to preserve the status of domestic competitions and resist plans that could lead to the creation of a European Super League for the wealthy and powerful teams.

European Club Association chairman Andrea Agnelli, who runs Juventus, last month sent a letter to the ECA’s 232 member clubs criticizing the European Leagues organization for trying to preserve the “status quo.” He told members to boycott the meeting in Madrid and only attend its own summit in June.

“We are not against change, but we have significant concerns if that change should be based on what is released by Agnelli in his letter to the clubs,” Olsson said.

Olsson said Agnelli spoke during the meeting as Juventus’ representative and explained that the proposals were made to begin discussions on the future of the competitions, but said that everything remained open for debate.

ECA vice chairman Edwin van der Sar, representing Ajax, told reporters after the meeting that rumors about promoting a closed league or playing weekend games in European competitions were not the goal of the proposals made by the association.

“The main thing we are fighting for is trying to get more access for more countries and more clubs,” he said. “To develop European football, it’s important to play more interesting and meaningful games and sometimes that doesn’t happen in the leagues.”

The ECA has already met with UEFA to discuss the changes, and the leagues will do the same on Wednesday.

The meeting in Madrid was organized by Spanish league president Javier Tebas, a longtime critic of the proposed changes.

“The entire football industry would be affected by these changes,” said Tebas, saying the league would consider legal actions if the new formats eventually went into effect. “It would be a very complicated scenario.”

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