Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Geneva — Europe’s biggest clubs do not want any more changes to the Champions League in the next few years, they said on Tuesday, promising to avoid a repetition of the "soap opera" that surrounded the 2016 competition.

In 2016 Uefa announced significant changes to the competition for the 2018-21 cycle, rearranging the group stage slots in favour of the four top-ranked leagues — in effect Spain, England, Germany and Italy — at the expense of smaller ones.

The decision came amid reports that the biggest clubs had held talks over the creation of a "Super League" if they did not get their way and was criticised by some of Europe’s smaller leagues who said they had not been consulted.

Andrea Agnelli, who was appointed chairman of the European Club Association on Tuesday after Karl-Heinz Rummenigge had stepped aside, said he did not envisage further changes for the 2021-24 cycle.

"I am comfortable in stating that the majority is in favour of the Champions League as it is, and also for the 21-24 cycle, and that will give it some stability going forward," Agnelli, the chairman of Italian champions Juventus, told reporters.

"We are not expecting a soap opera going forward as the Champions League cycle is pretty much set for 2021-24."

Although his comments may put paid to talk of a breakaway they could also frustrate those who were hoping 2016’s changes could be reversed.

Agnelli said he agreed with Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin that the rich-poor divide in European football needed to be tackled, although not at the expense of further growth of the biggest clubs. "We want a competition that is interesting and we want to see games that reach the last minute with the result in the balance," he said. "Stronger teams becoming stronger is not an issue but there are elements that need to be addressed."

Agnelli said he was not concerned about possible overspending by clubs in the transfer market during the off-season, despite Paris St Germain smashing the record by splashing out €222m on Brazilian forward Neymar.

"If the system is healthy, those transactions are fair. This year’s numbers just confirmed the growth rate we had for the past seven years," he said.

Agnelli also suggested that Uefa’s break-even rule, known as Financial Fair Play, needed to be rewritten, having achieved its initial goals of cutting overdue bills and overall losses.

"As a manager you should be looking at the balance sheet and value creation in the long term, and not the profit and loss [ P&L] statement," he said.

"The P&L was the perfect tool to address the overdue payables and the overall losses of the system. Now that has been tackled, what are the best set of rules going forward?"

International fixtures could be condensed into two periods a year, Agnelli suggested.

Such an idea could cut down on players commuting between Europe and South America, Africa and Asia to play in World Cup qualifiers and international tournaments, he said.

There are 10 international dates in 2017, divided into batches of two, which could result in some players making five return intercontinental trips a year. "If you have to keep the same number of [match] days, could you just have two dedicated windows for national teams?" Agnelli asked.

Reuters

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