DOHA: Europe’s leading clubs have voted overwhelmingly against any attempt by UEFA president Michel Platini to expand the size of the Champions League writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Their only concession to the European federation president’s musings over a merger of the two club competitions was a vote – less decisive – to offer the winners of the Europa League the added incentive of a place in the next season’s Champions League group stage.

The European Club Association has been meeting this week in Doha, at the invitation of the Qatari organisers of the 2022 World Cup. Representatives of 153 clubs attended.

All ECA members had been canvassed in the survey on the shape of UEFA club competitions for 2015-18. Some 87 member clubs from 36 different national associations responded thus:

  • 75pc expressed their “satisfaction” or “extreme satisfaction” with the current structure/format of UEFA’s club competitions;
  • 92pc believe that the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League should continue to exist in parallel;
  • 61pc would welcome offering the UEFA Europa League Winner/Finalists direct access to the UEFA Champions League group stage.

A statement from ECA interpreted the survey as showing “clearly . . . that European clubs are very happy with the current competitions and do not wish to see major changes to their structure/format.

“The option whereby the UEFA Europa League Winner/Finalists automatically qualify for the UEFA Champions League Group Stage of the new season raised some interest and support provided that the effects on the access list are carefully considered.”


The clubs had a more mixed reaction to proposals from UEFA and FIFA for a ban on third-party ownership of a player.

The discussion was preceded by presentations from UEFA’s Head of Licensing Andrea Traverso, who outlined UEFA’s position, and Daniel Lorenz Pereira, Legal Director of member club FC Porto.

ECA said: “The debate proved very lively emphasizing the importance of this issue for a number of clubs. It was made clear that TPO is a very complex phenomenon as there are many different aspects to the way it operates.

“Consequently, there is no unanimity among ECA Members as to whether TPO should be banned or not. ECA will further assess the merits and impact of TPO on the game and the repercussions of a possible ban. ECA will continue to engage and work alongside UEFA and FIFA on this matter.”

While the clubs are in Doha they are being given the opportunity to study Qatar 2022’s plans to host the World Cup amid a debate over whether the finals should be staged in the winter to avoid the searing summer temperatures.

ECA chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the Bayern Munich chief executive, said: “The clubs have a responsibility towards their players; therefore, ECA was happy to accept this invitation. It is important to get a first impression which is based on personal experience and not driven by third parties.”,

Rummenigge congratulated all the ECA members of achievements in its first five years. This had, he said, been “highlighted by last year’s signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding between ECA and UEFA.

He added: “When I look back at our history and at what we have achieved, I find it difficult to believe that we have only been around for 5 years. ECA’s development is remarkable, but we should not rest on our laurels as there are still challenges lying ahead of us. I thank everyone, inside and outside ECA, for the commitment, respect and trust they have shown our organisation.”

ECA is creating a women’s football committee with an inaugural is scheduled to take place on the occasion of the UEFA Women’s Champions League Final at Wembley on May 23.

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