SPORTS LAW AT THE CROSSROADS

UEFA and top European clubs in secret talks over Champions League revamp

By Andrew Warshaw

March 18 – Amid increasing speculation about a European Super League, firmly denied at every turn by UEFA, reports surfaced over the weekend that the Champions League may be revamped to appease Europe’s top clubs.

A report in the Wall Street Journal claimed the clubs are meeting with UEFA at its headquarters on Tuesday over possible radical changes to the format, most likely from 2024.

Apparently the talks will include the idea of relegation and promotion that would replace the current qualification system ensuring a more closed structure and making it increasingly harder for lesser sides to qualify for the Champions League.

Games could also be moved from midweek slots to the weekend, seriously undermining national league fixtures. World Leagues Forum chairman Christian Seifert, chief executive of the Bundesliga, said in January that “the weekend must belong to national leagues”.

Despite a public face of unity, UEFA has been under constant pressure behind the scenes from the European Clubs Association to maximise  Champions League revenue in terms of broadcasting.

“We can confirm that there will be an informal brainstorming session involving members of the UEFA Executive Committee and members of the ECA Board to discuss ideas and exchange views regarding club competitions post-2024 on Tuesday,”  the Daily Telegraph reported UEFA as confirming.

“UEFA will hold similar meetings with other stakeholder groups in the coming months, in order to allow for a proper consultation process before drawing up concrete proposals that could be studied more in-depth before any decisions are made.”

While the talks are in their infancy, they have been lambasted as “catastrophic” by La Liga president Javier Tebas who accused UEFA and the ECA of plotting in secret, somewhat ironic given that this is exactly what UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin accused FIFA of doing in terms of lack of consultation over Gianni Infantino’s  plan to revamp the global football calendar.

“UEFA and the ECA are negotiating behind closed doors so that the others don’t know about the reforms which put national leagues in danger,” Tebas told Reuters.

“They are making reforms to the Champions League which are very dangerous for football. It’s a model which is very damaging for national leagues and also for them, as they don’t understand business.”

Tebas was the driving force behind the proposal – since ditched – to play an annual La Liga fixture overseas, starting in Miami, but added: “Playing a game in Miami is much less important to La Liga than the catastrophic reforms of UEFA and the ECA.”

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