NYON, Switzerland (Reuters) - UEFA’s plans for European competition include more clubs and a league system featuring promotion and relegation, a leading soccer official said on Wednesday.
Lars-Christer Olsson, head of the European Leagues, said the proposal by the continent’s soccer governing body presented to the umbrella organisation’s members was similar to one put forward by Juventus president Andrea Agnelli.
Agnelli, acting as chairman of the European Club Association whose members include Europe’s biggest clubs, has suggested replacing the Champions League and Europa League with a Europe-wide league in which teams could be promoted and relegated.
Olsson, whose group represents Europe’s domestic leagues, said there was “not a big difference” between Agnelli’s suggestion and the UEFA proposal.
“There are ideas about promotion and relegation in the system, it’s a different system from the one we have today,” he told reporters.
“The total picture is there should be more clubs involved, for example ... so we have to analyse what effect that is going to have.”
UEFA has not given any details on its plans, saying that current discussions are “brainstorming” and its president Aleksander Ceferin said in a statement that, despite “a lot of talk” in the media, no decisions had been made.
“At the moment we have only ideas and opinions.”
He added that UEFA competitions were the “only source of redistribution” of funds between big and small countries.
“We will use this process to design our competitions to protect and develop European football,” he said.
“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.”
At present, 80 teams take part in the group stages of European club competition, rising to 96 from 2021.
Olsson said a relegation and promotion system implied some clubs could remain in European competition for the following season regardless of their domestic league performance.
UEFA’s proposal was “the only one for the time being” and this is what they have to analyse, he said, adding that a “very limited number” of clubs appeared to support the Agnelli plan.
There have been concerns a new system could grant bigger clubs captive places in European competition, breaking with the tradition that qualification must be achieved via domestic league positions, something Olsson has said must be preserved.
Javier Tebas, president of Spain’s La Liga, said the plans presented were “very similar to the ones we criticised before”.
“We hope we can change everything that has been presented,” he told Reuters, adding the clubs who supported the plans were “the same 20 as always, who want all the power.”
Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris and Alexander Smith