By Brian Homewood
NYON, Switzerland (Reuters) – UEFA’s plans for European competition include the participation of more clubs and the introduction of a league system featuring promotion and relegation, a leading official said on Wednesday.
Lars-Christer Olsson, head of the European Leagues umbrella organisation, said the proposal from the continent’s soccer governing body presented to his members at a meeting on Wednesday was similar to one previously 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, but I will not go into further details,” 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 merely “brainstorming.” and that a final decision is not due until next year. It could not immediately be reached for comment after Wednesday’s meeting.
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 performance in their own domestic league.
“When you look into the system you can make your own conclusions,” he said.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has promised to introduce competitions which bring a “new dimension” to club football when the current calendar ends in 2024.
Olsson said that UEFA’s proposal was “the only one for the time being” and this is what they have to analyse. However, he added that only a “very limited number” of clubs appeared to support the plan already outlined by Agnelli.
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 — a principle Olsson has said must be preserved.
Javier Tebas, president of Spain’s La Liga, said the plans presented on Wednesday 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)