UEFA Champions League reforms shelved after club opposition

11 September 2019 | Clubs & Rightsholders
UEFA Champions League reforms shelved after club opposition
Plans to restructure the UEFA Champions League, European soccer’s elite club competition, have been shelved due to a lack of support from teams across the continent.

Talks had taken place over several months between UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, and the European Club Association (ECA), which represents clubs in Europe, over changes to the competition from 2024. These include gated promotion and relegation, and playing fixtures on weekends.

The plans had been pushed by Andrea Agnelli, ECA chairman and president of Italian champions Juventus. He was backed by other soccer giants including Barcelona, four-time winners of the tournament.

A meeting was held this week between ECA member clubs, only for talks to break down. According to the Financial Times, a stumbling block was the proposal to have 24 teams retain their places in the Champions League each season, instead of having to qualify through strong performances in domestic competition.

The reforms also faced fierce criticism from LaLiga president Javier Tebas, who explained to SportsPro at Soccerex Europe why the Champions League changes were being scrapped for the foreseeable future.

“UEFA is pausing these changes,” he said. “It has suspended a meeting that was planned for 11th September when they were supposed to talk more about changes to the Champions League. They’ve been suspended indefinitely.

“The proposals were a frontal attack on domestic leagues. In the short-term, those changes would only benefit the big clubs. But if you look very closely in the medium to long-term, it would’ve also damaged the big clubs. It explains why the big clubs in England are against it.

“The problem in European football is not with the format of competitions. It’s a problem with the economic distribution. As a big European league, we are ready to sit down and talk.”

He added that “the big leagues have to do something for other smaller European leagues.”

Agnelli, however, has insisted the reforms are not dead, stating that the real deadline for the controversial plans is not until 2022, thus giving clubs more time to potentially reach an agreement.

He said: “We know we have to find an answer by 2022. That is when they [UEFA] go to market in terms of selling commercial rights of whatever competition there will be. So the real deadline if you want is 2022, but hopefully you will not need all that time."

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