By Andrew Warshaw
May 20 – UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has publicly declared for the first time that radical plans to overhaul the structure of the Champions League post-2024 will not include playing European fixtures at weekends.
Damaging the credibility of domestic leagues has been one of the key complaints surrounding the proposed changes and Ceferin has had to intervene on more than one occasion to appeal for calm among the various stakeholders.
Andrea Agnelli, head of the European Clubs Association (ECA) that has been locked in discussions with UEFA, denies that UEFA’s elite tournament is in danger of turning into a closed-shop Super League. But when it came to the idea of weekend games, the Juventus supremo was recently quoted as saying that “it is certainly something that is logical to an open system.”
The proposals for a revamped Champions League would apparently see 23 out of 32 teams being assured of qualification regardless of domestic performance, with promotion and relegation to a secondary competition leaving fewer places open to individual domestic league champions.
With the umbrella bodies for Europe’s clubs and leagues squabbling over how the future of Europe’s club competitions should look, Ceferin continues to pledge that no decisions have yet been reached.
“I was happy to repeat our commitment not to play UEFA club competition matches at weekends, with the exception of the Champions League final,” Čeferin said after a weekend meeting with UEFA’s 55 member associations.
“We will not decide anything without taking everyone’s views into account. We would never accept changes that would harm European football.”
Several leagues have condemned the proposals as unworkable but Ceferin said national associations took a different stance.
“I was encouraged by the positive response to the consultation process and by the solidarity among associations, with a recognition from the larger ones of the need to contribute more for the benefit of smaller nations,” he said
Meanwhile, Ed Woodward, executive vice-chairman of Manchester United, says the proposed changes for the Champions League are partly a result of domestic leagues “not necessarily thriving”.
United finished the current season in sixth place, missing out on a Champions League spot, and speaking on a conference call to United investors, Woodward discussed UEFA’s plans for the competition.
“This is partly driven by domestic leagues across Europe not necessarily thriving and there being a desire from the clubs that are toward the top of those leagues to play more European games, which perhaps are more competitive,” he said.
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