Europe’s clubs divided over Champions League reform

UEFA’s Director of Competitions Giorgio Marchetti said there was “no pressure to make a decision” and discussions would continue into 2020.

Both UEFA and ECA both regularly deny paternity of the project.

According to a source close to the talks, however, the reform is the responsibility of Marchetti, who was general secretary of the Italian league before joining UEFA, in collaboration with his ECA counterpart, Belgium’s Diederik Dewaele, who was previously with UEFA. 

The clubs are playing the same ambiguous game, a source said.

“Five or six large influential European clubs within the ECA have a large part in the reform proposal but each tries to get it endorsed by the other so as not to lose credibility.”

Among these are Agnelli’s Juventus and other big clubs worried that income from the domestic leagues they dominate will stagnate.

“It’s interesting to PSG because it creates wealth for all of football,” said Victoriano Melero of Paris Saint-Germain.  

Barcelona and Ajax are in favour. Real Madrid are reportedly backers as well.

Smaller clubs on the ECA executive — Lyon, HJK Helsinki and Legia Warsaw — are also in favour. Marseille are also supporters.

Other big clubs have been cagey. 

In Italy, Roma and the two Milan clubs abstained in an Italian league vote on the plan.

In Germany, Bayern Munich, one of the presumed authors of the scheme, and Borussia Dortmund have spoken against it. 

This summer, ECA held “club forums” at which it continued to present an unchanged scheme despite repeated hostile reactions. 

After a meeting of its executive board on August 16, ECA said in a statement: “Our members have made clear that the current structure of UEFA Club Competitions is not serving the interests of the majority of clubs, particularly those outside of the largest domestic competitions.”

Even if it will take longer than expected, the key elements of the plan seem to be on track, Raffaele Poli, a researcher at the International Centre for the Study of Sport in Neuchatel.

“The proposal set the cat among the pigeons,” said Poli.  

He said that “nothing is decided” but, he predicted, “there will still be more European matches, groups with 16 matches and a strengthening of the elite.”

“The percentage of clubs that are against the project or undecided is higher than the percentage of clubs that are in favour,” said Saint Etienne’s Caiazzo.

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