LONDON: Juventus president Andrea Agnelli has put forward the protectionist case for European football’s club elite at a conference in London.

Agnelli’s stance was intriguing because he is president of the European Club Association which represents the interests of not only the Real Madrids of the game but the Real Sociedads.

ECA has been stymied in its attempt to present a united front in talks with European federation UEFA over the shape of the Champions League from 2024 to 2027. The major clubs want to protect their competitive presence and revenues while the lesser clubs want a greater share of the financial cake.

Agnelli told a Financial Times Business of Football Summit: “We are discussing the polarization of clubs and how to offer more clubs the opportunity to grow and grow.

“Today there are big markets and big leagues. Minor leagues have less chance to compete. You can argue that just because you are in a great country you should have an automatic right of access to competitions.

“I have great respect for what Atalanta are doing [reaching the Champions League knockout stage], despite lacking international history.

“Is that right or not? Think about Roma who have contributed to maintaining Italy’s high ranking in recent years but then had one bad season and dropped out with all the serious economic consequences.

“We must protect investments and costs.”