September 5, 2017 / 11:21 AM / 17 days ago

European clubs rule out further changes to Champions League

Newly appointed Chairman of European Club Association (ECA) Andrea Agnelli attends a news conference after ECA's General Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

GENEVA (Reuters) - Europe’s biggest clubs do not want any more changes to the Champions League in the next few years, they said on Tuesday, promising to avoid a repetition of the ‘soap opera’ which surrounded the competition last year.

UEFA last year announced significant changes to the competition for the 2018-21 cycle, rearranging the group-stage slots in favour of the four top-ranked leagues -- in effect Spain, England, Germany and Italy -- at the expense of the smaller ones.

The decision came amid reports that the biggest clubs had held talks over the creation of a so-called Super League if they did not get their way, and was criticised by some of Europe’s smaller leagues who said they had not been consulted.

Andrea Agnelli, who was appointed chairman of the European Club Association (ECA) on Tuesday after Karl-Heinz Rummenigge stepped aside, said he did not envisage further changes for the subsequent 2021-24 cycle.

“I am comfortable in stating that the majority is in favour of the Champions League as it is, and also for the 21-24 cycle, and that will give it some stability going forward,” Agnelli, the chairman of Italian champions Juventus, told reporters.

“We are not expecting a soap opera going forward as the Champions League cycle is pretty much set for 2021-24.”

Although Agnelli’s comments may put paid to further talk of a breakaway, they could also frustrate those who were hoping that last year’s changes could be reversed.

Newly appointed Chairman of European Club Association (ECA) Andrea Agnelli (R) attends next to outgoing Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge a news conference after ECA's General Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Agnelli said he agreed with UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin that the rich-poor divide in European football needed to be addressed, although not at the expense of further growth of the biggest clubs.

“We want a competition that is interesting and we want to see games that reach the last minute with the result in the balance,” he said. “Stronger teams becoming stronger is not an issue but there are elements that need to be addressed.”

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Agnelli said he was not concerned about possible overspending by clubs in the transfer market during the summer, despite Paris St Germain smashing the record by splashing out 222 million euros (£203.67 million) on Brazilian forward Neymar.

“If the system is healthy, those transactions are fair. This year’s numbers just confirmed the growth rate we had for the past seven years,” he said.

He also suggested that UEFA’s break-even rule known as Financial Fair Play needed to be re-written, having achieved its initial goals of cutting overdue bills and overall losses.

“As a manager you should be looking at the balance sheet and value creation in the long term, and not the Profit and Loss statement,” he said.

“The P & L was the perfect tool to address the overdue payables and the overall losses of the system. Now that has been tackled, what are the best set of rules going forward?”

Editing by Clare Fallon

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