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Wednesday, October 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  International sports

UEFA puts future Champions League ideas to league officials

UPDATED: Wed., May 8, 2019, 9:53 a.m.

Liverpool’s Divock Origi, right, celebrates scoring his side’s fourth goal of the game during the Champions League Semi Final, second leg soccer match between Liverpool and Barcelona at Anfield, Liverpool, England, Tuesday, May 7, 2019. (Peter Byrne / Associated Press)
Liverpool’s Divock Origi, right, celebrates scoring his side’s fourth goal of the game during the Champions League Semi Final, second leg soccer match between Liverpool and Barcelona at Anfield, Liverpool, England, Tuesday, May 7, 2019. (Peter Byrne / Associated Press)
By Graham Dunbar Associated Press

NYON, Switzerland – UEFA has included promotion and relegation, plus places for more teams, in its future vision for the Champions League and other club competitions.

European Leagues president Lars-Christer Olsson told reporters that UEFA leaders proposed the ideas in a meeting Wednesday. It was part of year-long talks about changing competition formats and prize money distribution models that would take effect in 2024.

The leagues are competing for influence with the European Club Association, whose own plans are reflected in UEFA’s opening proposal.

“There are ideas about promotion and relegation. It’s a different system to the one we have today,” Olsson said at UEFA headquarters. “The total picture is that there would be more clubs involved.”

Olsson said there was “not a big difference” between UEFA’s presentation Wednesday and the ECA’s confidential proposal at UEFA in March that has since been reported.

He declined to give more details before UEFA updates its 55 member federations on May 17 in Budapest, Hungary.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin, who hosted the 2 1/2-hour meeting, said talks currently involve “only ideas and opinions” and are more transparent than the previous round in 2016 before he was elected. Decisions then favored clubs from Europe’s wealthiest leagues.

“Our aim is to find a solution that reflects the changes in the game, preserves the position of UEFA’s competitions as the most attractive and exciting in the world, while providing significant solidarity funding across European football,” Ceferin said in a statement.

UEFA expects to announce any changes next year after further rounds of meetings with clubs, leagues and other stakeholders including broadcasters worldwide.

“This is the first meeting of several,” said Olsson, suggesting the 29-nation European Leagues group could agree a counter proposal at an October assembly in London.

The leagues want Champions League entries to be decided only on the merit of domestic league placings and winning a UEFA competition. That has been a basic principle since the European Cup kicked off in 1955 with only national league champions playing.

Club leaders want placings in Champions League groups, possibly doubled in size to eight teams, to secure some entries for the next season’s edition. Bigger groups also would satisfy elite clubs who want more games against each other and prize money increases funded by new broadcasting rights deals.

The ECA’s move toward a closed league system is seen as protecting the elite group from new challengers.

It follows Juventus and Real Madrid – whose officials hold the top two positions in the ECA – being eliminated in the Champions League by Ajax. Though Ajax is a four-time European champion, it had to advance through three preliminary rounds last August as runner-up in the mid-ranked Netherlands league last season.

Olsson welcomed Ajax’s return to the top 24 years after last winning the Champions League.

“Competitions (themselves) are more important than individual clubs. There will always be clubs to play (in them),” he said.

It is unclear if possible extra places in UEFA competitions from 2024 would be added in larger group stages or only in expanded preliminary rounds.

Starting in September 2021, and for three seasons until 2024, there will be 32 teams in the group stages of each of the Champions League, Europa League and a new third-tier competition. The round-robin groups have four teams each playing six games.

The leagues have pushed for a fairer distribution of more than $2 billion in annual Champions League prize money to help close a widening wealth gap between clubs.

UEFA said it would share around (euro) 240 million ($268 million) in solidarity payments this season to clubs across Europe.

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