BARCELONA (Reuters) – Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has said the Champions League must undergo changes to ensure elite teams face each other more often and remains committed to the idea of playing Liga matches abroad.
European soccer’s governing body UEFA met with representatives from its member clubs in March to begin discussions over the future of the Champions League and other continental competitions from 2024 onwards.
European Club Association (ECA) chairman Andrea Agnelli has invited his organisation’s 232 member clubs to an assembly in June to discuss the future of UEFA competition.
Barcelona beat Manchester United in the Champions League quarter-finals and are on course to reach the showpiece match in Madrid on June 1 after beating Liverpool 3-0 in the semi-final first leg ahead of next Tuesday’s decider at Anfield.
“Fans ask us for more European games. And from 2024 the new format will allow that. We’re going to change it for the better,” Bartomeu said in an interview with British newspaper The Guardian published on Sunday.
“When we played Manchester United it was the first time they’d been here in 11 years. Against Liverpool it was the first since 2006. It can’t be that we play many games but not against teams like Liverpool and United.”
United beat Barca in the 2007-08 Champions League semi-finals on their way to winning the competition, but lost to the Catalans in the 2009 and 2011 finals, while Liverpool defeated Barca at the last 16 stage in the 2006/07 season.
Bartomeu said he opposed the idea of certain teams being guaranteed places in the Champions League, however, adding: “No- one’s talking about a closed league or a Super League. It will be an evolution, and attractive. It won’t be a revolution.”
Bartomeu added that he was still in favour of playing Spanish top flight games outside Spain, after his club withdrew from La Liga’s proposed match between Barca and Girona in Miami last January, citing a “lack of consensus”.
“We want to continue ‘footballising’ the United States,” he added.
“I want there to be three games abroad every year to promote La Liga – one in the U.S., one in the Middle East, one in Asia. They watch us on TV and it’s a way of getting close to those fans.”
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ken Ferris)