Friday, 17 May 2019

European FA heads preach caution over reforms

Days after controversial plans emerged to shake up European football, both Uefa and national association heads preached caution after meeting Friday to discuss reforms of the Champions League and Europa League.

After the informal meeting, Uefa President Aleksandr Ceferin said European football's governing body was "focused on trying to find a way forward that meets the needs of the game across the whole of Europe, not just in the big markets".

"We will not decide anything without taking everyone's views into account," he said in a statement.

Reforms initially proposed by the European Club Association (ECA) earlier this month triggered fierce criticism from Europe's domestic leagues.

The proposals envisaged a single, three-tiered European competition with internal promotion and relegation, effectively making it harder for smaller clubs to break into European competition.

Documents seen by AFP this month revealed Uefa were working on similar reforms, with plans to reshape the Champions League into four pools of eight teams, with only four of the 32 participants qualifying through their national leagues.

Football leagues across Europe including Germany's Bundesliga and the French league have rejected the proposals, with some offering alternatives.

Ceferin said Friday that Uefa "would never accept changes that would harm European football".

"The consultation process is ongoing and we look forward to receiving the thoughts of other stakeholders directly, rather than having to piece them together from media statements," he said.

The Slovenian also repeated a commitment not to play Uefa club competition matches at weekends, with the exception of the Champions League Final, and that there would be no reduction in international game slots.

English FA chairman Greg Clarke, one of the 55 national football association heads and general secretaries present in Budapest, said it was premature for associations to sound alarm bells.

"Too many people are getting over-excited," Clarke told AFP.

"No firm proposals are on the table, all we are doing at the moment is listening to all the opinions. We discussed different formats, it was very civilised and very transparent," he said.

Spanish FA head Luis Rubiales also struck a cautious tone.

"Many things that were not true have been criticised," he told AFP. "Football is constantly evolving, all of us from different parts of the football world are taking part in a dialogue about the construction and in the renewal of our competitions."

The meeting had been "friendly", French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet told AFP.

"The federations have been given time to reflect on idea and proposals," he added.

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