February 19 – Arsene Wenger, FIFA’s Chief of Global Development since the end of 2019, has hit out at proposals to overhaul the Champions League, warning that fans will be turned off if the competition is watered down.
UEFA’s plans, designed to stave off the threat of a breakaway Super League, will reportedly see the group stages turned into a ‘single table’ format with 36 teams rather than 32 under the so-called Swiss system.
The changes mean there would be 225 matches in the competition compared to 125 now and Europe’s top leagues are concerned about fixture congestion as well as about special slots being awarded to the highest ranked teams in UEFA’s ‘coefficient’ rankings.
The former Arsenal manager says any expansion would dilute the “sporting merit” of the competition.
“Look, to make it simple and honest, I would say the clubs always want more money,” Wenger told beIN Sports. “To get more money, they want more guaranteed games. The fans want more games of significance, that means they want games with meaning.
“Modern football has to find a compromise between what the clubs want – more money – and what the fans want – simplicity, clarity and competition of meaning.
“Personally, I think the model that is proposed for the modern Champions League, I don’t like it at all.”
Jaco Swart, CEO of European Leagues, told the Financial Times’ Business of Football summit on Wednesday: “We think it is too much. It is not only the number of matches, but the number of match days it could lead to a shift in value from domestic competition to international competition.”
But Charlie Marshall, the chief executive of the European Club Association, sounded a more positive note.
“We feel more European matches are important in the development of football, we absolutely feel there is more room to play more European games and would like to see the reshaping happen that can enable that.”
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