Uefa president talks Champions League reform, ‘champions of champions’ match

Uefa president Aleksander Čeferin has suggested that ongoing talks over reform of the Champions League may “protect” clubs who reach the latter stages of the competition, adding that European football’s governing body is in advanced talks with South American counterpart Conmebol over a “champion of champions” national team match.

Speaking to UK newspaper The Times, Čeferin admitted that one of the proposals on the table for the Champions League could protect clubs such as Dutch Eredivisie champion Ajax, which reached the semi-finals of the 2018-19 Champions League but has no guarantee of reaching the group stage this season.

Čeferin said: “We would like to protect teams like Ajax this year, or Monaco and Leicester City before. Ajax played the semi-finals this year and now they will have to sell all their players because they don’t know if they will qualify for the Champions League next year.

“I don’t think we should protect too many clubs, because then it’s too closed, but I think we have to protect some clubs. One idea is that those clubs who succeed at a certain stage of the competition can compete the following year too. But it is a discussion only. We have a meeting on September 11 to debate it with leagues and clubs.”

Debate over the future make-up of the Champions League has rumbled on in recent months. European Club Association (ECA) chairman and Juventus president, Andrea Agnelli, last month saw his support of Uefa’s proposed reform suffer a heavy blow at home, with three quarters of Serie A’s 20 teams reportedly opposing the plans.

Agnelli was elected to lead the ECA in September 2017, and Juventus was said to be the only club to oppose the Lega’s stance against the changes, with AS Roma, Inter Milan, AC Milan and Fiorentina abstaining from the vote.

The development came after Agnelli earlier accused Europe’s top five leagues of ‘protectionism’ in opposing plans to reform Uefa club competitions post-2024 and disputed suggestions that any reforms could damage the value of their media rights.

Speaking at the ECA’s Special General Assembly in Malta, Agnelli focused on the findings of a recent KPMG report which argued that LaLiga’s media revenues could drop by as much as 41.5 per cent if the reforms go through.

The report argued that plans to make European qualification less dependent on performance in domestic leagues would diminish interest in these competitions. Agnelli said the report in question was based on false assumptions and offered to conduct a joint study with the leagues to determine the impact of any reforms.

Čeferin today ruled out the chance of a ‘Super League’ involving just Europe’s elite clubs, saying: “A Super League will never happen while I’m here.”

He also discussed the potential for an agreement with Conmebol to stage a match between the winner of Euro 2020 and next year’s Copa America. The concept is not a new one, with Conmebol president Alejandro Domínguez having discussed the idea as far back as May 2017.

Čeferin added: “We absolutely don’t need any Fifa permission. Why would we need permission for a competition? This is a decision for the two confederations. Because we are not members of Fifa, we are independent. We are partners, not subordinates.”