European Champions League could be expanded to include 64 teams
UEFA president Michel Platini says a decision on format of competitions to be made in 2014
New proposals could see the second-tier Europa League scrapped
The Europa League replaced the UEFA Cup in 2009
UEFA has exchanged “initial thoughts” with Europe’s top clubs about revamping its two major competitions.
One idea up for discussion is to double the European Champions League in size to include 64 teams as part of a proposal which would see the second-tier Europa League scrapped.
“We exchanged initial thoughts, but the discussions are to follow,” a spokesman for the European Club Association (ECA), which represents 207 European clubs, told CNN in a statement. “For the time being there’s nothing concrete.
“As a principle, ECA is happy with the competition structure as it is,” added the spokesman. “However, we are open to discuss changes or improvements in light of the 2015-18 competition cycle. We will get together with UEFA at some point to discuss.”
The Europa League has become very much the poorer relation of the two competitions with Europe’s governing body earning about £800m more from the Champions League.
And while Chelsea made £49m by winning the Champions League in 2012, Europa League winners Atletico Madrid earned just £8.5m in prize money.
“We’re discussing it,” UEFA president Michel Platini told French newspaper Ouest France. “We will make a decision in 2014. Nothing is decided yet.
“There is an ongoing debate to determine what form the European competitions will have between 2015 and 2018.”
Formerly known as the the UEFA Cup, the Europa League has been much-maligned since it was rebranded in 2009.
A prolonged qualification process means a team reaching the Europa League final might have played as many as 20 games, in addition to domestic fixtures.
Breakaway “Super League”
Often high-profile clubs take the decision to play second-string teams in the competition, preferring to focus on their domestic league and the chance of qualifying for the Champions League.
Earlier this season, UEFA asked managers and players to refer to the Europa League as “prestigious”, “rich in heritage” and “dramatic”.
In the Ouest France interview, former French international Platini also dismissed the idea of Europe’s biggest football clubs, such as Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester United, forming a breakaway “Super League”.
“It’s a question that is regularly brought up,” said the UEFA president. “I can’t see how it could work outside the UEFA framework. Who will referee them? In what stadiums will they play?”
Meanwhile Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis is to join the ECA’s executive board after David Gill, CEO of the Gunners’ Premier League rivals, decided to stand down from the European club organization.
Gazidis will replace Gill on the UEFA Professional Football Strategy Council, with the United executive concentrating on his candidacy for election to the UEFA Executive Committee in the coming year.
“I am pleased to welcome Ivan Gazidis on the ECA executive board,” ECA chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said in a statement.
“His experience and distinct football knowledge will add a lot of value to ECA and European club football as a whole,” added the German international striker, who is also chairman of Bayern Munich.
“At the same time, I would like to thank David Gill for his invaluable contribution to ECA over the last three years,”
“On behalf of the ECA Executive Board, I wish him all the best for his future professional and personal life.”