KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Speculation about the future of club football at international level has been ramped up by both world federation FIFA and the European governing body UEFA – and all to the multi-million benefit of the big clubs.

Last week FIFA Council decided to launch an expanded and revamped Club World Cup in 2021; yesterday UEFA and the European Club Association discussed their own project to develop the Champions League.

FIFA’s proposal, driven by president Gianni Infantino, was opposed by UEFA whose clubs, via ECA, had informed the world federation that they no interest in participating.

All to play for between world and European bodies

However, off-stage, comments from officials of clubs such as Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid have suggested that the initial rejection had been more of an opening bargaining statement than definitive stance.

Logically, they are bound to be interested if the appearance and prize money is large enough, particularly if it outweighs the annual summer allure of commercially-organised intercontinental summer club tournaments in the United States and Asia.

Format to the fore

Financial issues have always been at the heart of the Champions League, right from its evolution out of the old European Champions Cup in the early 1990s.

Only last autumn details about negotiations for a long-discussed ‘super league’ emerged from the Football Leaks revelations.

A regular pattern of every three-year cycle has been for clubs to raise the prospect of a breakaway super league and for UEFA to respond with ever more cash to keep them sweet.

However, with signs that TV revenues are starting to level off, the only means to generate still more money to keep the clubs onside is through a realignment of the competition format.

Means to achieve this are understood to have taken up  considerable time during and on the side of a formal meeting of minds between UEFA and ECA on Monday.

One proposal being thrown around is for the initial group stage to comprise four groups of eight clubs rather than eight groups of four; another is the possibility of relegation and promotion so that clubs do not drop out of the Champions League entirely from one year to another; a further idea which has alarmed domestic leagues is the prospect of some matches being staged at weekends.

Joint statement

A joint statement from UEFA and ECA offered no clues.

They said only:

A meeting was held today at UEFA Headquarters, “The House of European Football”, between the UEFA Executive Committee and the ECA Executive Board, which represents the full range of the ECA membership.

The purpose of the meeting was to engage in an informal brainstorming session to allow for an initial sharing of ideas and exchange of views around UEFA Club Competitions post-2024.

This is the first of a series of meetings amongst stakeholders in the months ahead, in order to allow for a detailed and proper consultation with the aim of drawing up concrete proposals that can be properly considered and analysed prior to any decisions being reached.

Whatever the eventual outcome the clubs – empowered in these last days to play off FIFA against UEFA – appear to be sitting in a win-win situation.