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FIFA and top clubs still at odds

March 26, 2019

FIFA and top European sides continue bickering over updating club competitions. Europe's best want no part in an expanded Club World Cup, but are planning to beef up the Champions League at domestic football's expense.

Andrea Agnelli
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Keystone/S. Di Nolfi

The European Club Association remains opposed to FIFA's plans to hold a 24-team Club World Cup once every four years — rather than the current, annual, 7-team mini-tournament — starting in 2021. 

"We are at the moment not prepared to participate in this event," said ECA chairman Andrea Agnelli, also the boss of Juventus, when the group convened in Amsterdam on Tuesday. 

According to FIFA's plans for the new club competition, eight European clubs would receive invites. 

FIFA's deputy secretary general, Zvonimir Boban, earlier said that he expected Europe's best clubs to agree to the plan in the end. Bayern Munich and Real Madrid have reacted warmly to the new proposal for the competition but currently appear to be in the minority.

Agnelli also took aim at the organizing process more generally, saying that FIFA had handled the issue "like managing the local lottery for Thanksgiving." 

"We are used to managing a business," Agnelli, part of the family that founded the Fiat car empire, said. "It means we need to have full overview on a project that is presented to us."

'It is not a Super League'

There doesn't appear to be a "full overview" of ECA plans to reform the Champions League by 2024, either. 

Agnelli was tight-lipped on Tuesday on the possible future format of an extended Champions League, refusing to comment or commit on issues like a promotion and relegation system, an extended group phase, or more weekend matches clashing with the domestic club calendar. 

"Naming is important but it is not a Super League," Agnelli said of the competition's future, saying only that the promotion and relegation of teams was "natural within the football environment."

When it came to the idea of weekend games, the Italian only committed to one idea: that the final continue to take place on a Saturday evening. 

"We have to plan the future," Agnelli said. "So far there is one weekend game, and that will surely stay on the weekend." 

Read more:  Opinion: Dull Champions League group stage needs overhaul

Moving a number of Champions League matches to weekends is sure to have severe impacts on domestic competition, at least where top teams are concerned. German Football League (DFL) CEO Christian Seifert has referred to this as a "red line." 

Although the big-money clubs in the ECA would hope to lead the discussion, any changes to the format of European club competition also requires UEFA's involvement and consent. 

msh (AP, dpa)