KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Europe’ leading clubs have kept their powder dry in setting out, once more, their policy vis-a-vis an expansion of UEFA’s continental club tournaments from 2024

A series of increasingly aggressive exchanges have marked the past month with the European Club Association pursuing structural expansion and the leagues and national associations opposing any further encroachment into domestic schedules.

The ECA executive board, headed by the Juventus president Andrea Agnelli, issued an emollient statement after its latest meeting in St Petersburg yesterday and today.

Both ECA and the European Leagues organisation are represented on the executive committee of the European governing body and the ECA was quick to seek to seize the initiative in debating the future shape of the Champions League, the Europa League and a proposed third tournament.

However it stepped back from sparking a further tit-for-tat exchange and sought to present a responsible, diplomatic approach to what it interpreted UEFA’s aim to develop “a fair, balanced and representative [competitions] model which will be of more benefit to the club game across all of Europe, from the smallest to the biggest clubs.”

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin insisted last week that the federation had an open mind on the various proposals though it appears to be only the ECA which, so far, has come up with concrete ideas.

An ECA statement said:

Our fundamental belief is that clubs in all European countries who are good enough to develop and play regularly in European competitions should have the chance to do so. 

We believe in a football ecosystem where more games of quality can take place on the European stage at all levels.  We believe in greater diversity and financial stability across the competitions and improving the competitiveness of teams across the professional game.

We believe in a broader and deeper base of clubs competing and developing over time, so that more can progress through the ranks and compete for honours at the highest levels. 

We therefore welcome and support the principles of UEFA’s reform initiative to ensure that the UEFA Club Competitions continue to grow and develop their position as the best football system in the world and this is why we are engaging in a constructive and proactive manner with UEFA.   

The next step, as far as the ECA is concerned, will be taken after a ‘special general assembly’ in Malta on June 6-7.

By that time the clubs may also have learned more about the plans for an expanded FIFA Club World Cup which may emerge from the world federation’s congress in Paris on June 4.