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Soccer - Clubs reiterate demand for European matches as talks continue

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By Reuters

By Brian Homewood

GENEVA (Reuters) – European clubs on Tuesday reiterated their demand for an expansion of continental competitions, with more matches for more teams, but said it could take until 2022 to decide how to do it.

UEFA is looking to reform its club competitions from 2024 onwards but an initial proposal, drawn up in conjunction with the European Club Association (ECA), ran into strong opposition from the continent’s domestic leagues.

The initial proposal envisaged a three-tier pan European league with promotion and relegation between the divisions.

The top tier would have been the new version of the Champions League but with 24 of the 32 teams keeping their places for the following season, breaking the tradition that qualification is achieved through domestic competition.

“The proposal that has been put on the table is in the interests of all and it is a good proposal,” ECA chairman Andrea Agnelli told reporters.

“Will that be the one that arrives first at the finish line? It might not be but that is not what matters to us… what is important is more European games and a fair access.”

“We want greater participation from minor countries,” he added.

Speaking after an ECA general assembly, Agnelli, who was re-elected for a further two year mandate as chairman, denied that it risked becoming a talking-shop, saying that the process was intended to be open and transparent.

“This is the kind of path and pattern we have to go through,” said Agnelli, the president of Serie A champions Juventus. “The real deadline is 2022, though hopefully we will not need that long to come up with an agreement.”

The current system of European competition has prompted dissatisfaction among smaller clubs who have to go through a qualifying competition, played at the start of the season in July and August, to reach the lucrative group stages.

Dutch champions Ajax Amsterdam, who reached the Champions League semi-finals earlier this year, still had to go through two qualifying rounds to reach the group stage this season because of the way places are allocated.

ECA vice-chairman Dariusz Mioduski, from Legia Warsaw, said there were positive aspects in the initial proposal.

“There are a lot of things that they (the clubs) like about it, there are a number of issues which need to be addressed which are not liked by everyone,” he said.

“It’s about identifying the issues which are causing tensions. I am pretty optimistic about finding solutions — I don’t think it will be so hard if we take away the emotional aspect and the spin around it.”

(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Christian Radnedge)