Expanding Champions League to 64 teams is an option, says Platini

Thu, Nov 29, 2012, 00:00

Michel Platini has said that expanding the Champions League to 64 teams and scrapping the Europa League is an option amid a wide-ranging debate over the future of Uefa’s club competitions.

Asked about the possibility of scrapping the second-tier competition and doubling the size of the Champions League, the Uefa president said the proposal was under discussion.

Platini told the newspaper Ouest-France: “There is an ongoing debate to determine what form the European competitions will have between 2015 and 2018.

“We’re discussing it, we will make a decision in 2014. Nothing is decided yet,” added Platini.

However, such a radical move is considered unlikely because it would reduce the number of teams in European competition overall and risk diluting the appeal of the Champions League.

There is, however, an acknowledgement that changes are needed to the Europa League if it is to prosper. As such, Uefa is likely to offer a place in the Champions League to both finalists in the competition from 2015 in a bid to increase its allure.

Clubs in England have particular issues because of the already crowded fixture calendar but the lure of a place in the following season’s Champions League would increase the junior competition’s appeal.

Europe’s governing body has been encouraged by a recent sponsorship deal with Western Union and improved broadcasting contracts, though the figures pale next to those for the Champions League.

Uefa executives discussing the possible format changes have been told that nothing should be considered off the table.

However, earlier experiences with expanding the Champions League have been mixed – the introduction of a second group stage was axed after it proved unpopular with fans and sponsors.

The discussions will be viewed against the backdrop of the continuing power shifts between the European Club Association and Uefa.

But Platini said he was not concerned about the intermittent threat of a breakaway league.

“It’s a question that is regularly brought up,” he said. “It doesn’t worry me. I can’t see how it could work outside the Uefa framework.

“Who will referee them? In what stadiums will they play? A lot of people want them? I don’t think so.”

A 64-club competition would see as many as seven English clubs and five Scottish teams entering at various stages of the qualifying rounds.

Platini also blasted Fifa president Sepp Blatter for dismissing his idea of extra officials behind the goal-line as being too expensive.

Uefa are continuing with the five officials, and Platini said that the cost was minimal compared to goal-line technology.

He added: “I’ll give you some numbers. Mr Blatter said that five officials is expensive. In our Uefa competitions, if you want to put in goal-line technology it costs us €32 million in the first year and €54 million over five years.

“Referees, it costs us €2.3 million.

“If you put in the goal-line, it is the gateway to video in football in general. I’m against it all.”

Last week, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew said the Europa League was more difficult to negotiate than the Champions League because of its “heavier schedule” and Thursday night kick-offs.

Despite that, Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas – who won the competition with Porto in 2011 – has said he could not understand why the tournament was viewed as a punishment in England.

The Champions League is far more financially beneficial, for Uefa and the clubs concerned, than Europes second-tier tournament and there it seems lies the problem for most club owners.

Guardian Service

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