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European clubs offer backing to Europa League

Wed 6th Feb 2013 | Club & Country Competitions

Europe’s leading clubs have signalled their support for the current format of UEFA’s top competitions in light of ongoing speculation over the future of the Europa League.

UEFA president Michel Platini made the headlines in November when he said expanding the Champions League to 64 teams and axing the Europa League is an option. The Europa League is a reincarnation of the UEFA Cup, which was rebranded and restructured ahead of the 2009-10 campaign, but has continually suffered by being painted as the poor relation to the Champions League, while a huge financial chasm exists between the two competitions.

The European Club Association (ECA), which represents 207 teams on the continent, staged its general assembly in Doha, Qatar on Tuesday with the 2015-18 UEFA Club Competitions Cycle on the agenda. ECA member clubs were invited to participate in an internal survey on the future of both the Champions League and Europa League.

The ECA said that 75% of respondents expressed their “satisfaction” or “extreme satisfaction” with the current structure of UEFA’s club competitions, with 92% believing that the Champions League and Europa League should continue to exist in parallel. A further 61% said they would back offering the Europa League winner or finalists direct access to the Champions League group stage – a proposal that has been raised to increase the attractiveness of European football’s secondary competition.

The ECA said in a statement: “In summary, the results of the survey clearly show 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.”

Tuesday’s meeting also saw a debate on discussions taking place both within UEFA and FIFA in relation to a possible ban of third-party ownership (TPO) of players’ economic rights. Presentations were made by UEFA’s head of licensing Andrea Traverso and Daniel Lorenz Pereira, legal director of ECA member FC Porto, which has been at the forefront of recent debate over TPO. The ECA said there was “no unanimity” amongst members regarding a TPO ban, adding that further talks will be held over the implications of such a move. In other news, the ECA has elected to form a women’s football committee.

The committee will be chaired by Jean-Michel Aulas, whose Olympique Lyonnais team is one of the leading forces in women’s football on the continent. The ECA said: “The aim of this committee is to offer a platform allowing for European women’s club football matters to be discussed and eventually brought up at UEFA/FIFA level.”

Posted by: Kev Howland

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