PARIS (AP) — French and German professional soccer clubs on Wednesday rejected a proposal that would turn the Champions League into a largely closed-off competition.
After the Bundesliga said all 36 members voted to reject the European Club Association’s reform plan, representatives from professional French clubs gathered in Paris and rejected the project with 32 votes against, and three abstentions.
European soccer’s governing body UEFA is planning to adopt similar plans to those proposed by the ECA. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are among 13 German members of the ECA, which is urging UEFA to make radical changes to the Champions League format. France has nine clubs in the powerful organization.
The ECA wants 24 of 32 Champions League entries to be retained in expanded eight-team groups instead of places being based on performance in domestic leagues.
Bundesliga CEO Christian Seifert said Champions League changes “must not jeopardize the relevance and future” of European national leagues. He added the ECA’s plan “would sustainably damage the whole of European football — and that can never be in the interest of the UEFA.”
Hours later, the French league added its opposition to the plans.
“French football is worried about the current project’s sporting and economic consequences on national leagues,” the league said.
According to Didier Quillot, the French league’s executive director, big clubs including Paris Saint-Germain, Marseille and Lyon took part in the vote, amid reports that PSG and Lyon could support the current project. Quillot did not reveal how they voted.
French football federation president Noel Le Graet attended the meeting and presented an alternative proposal to overhaul Europe’s top tournament. Both Quillot and Le Graet declined to reveal its details.
Fearing a loss of TV revenues for French football authorities and clubs, and an overcrowded match calendar, Le Graet said a closed-off Champions League would undermine the country’s domestic championship.
“We worked over the past few days to try and convince a certain number of people of amending the UEFA proposal,” Le Graet said. “Clubs have decided to think about our proposal. If it is validated, we will present it to UEFA in the coming days.”
The French league said clubs’ representatives unanimously agreed to work on the federation’s alternative option.
Currently, qualification for the Champions League is based on domestic league positions, with the top four from England, Germany, Italy and Spain all entering in the group stage. France’s top two teams get direct qualification to the group stage.
But under the overhaul envisaged from the 2024-25 season, once places have been secured in the Champions League group stage only the eight sides relegated to the Europa League won’t return the following season, regardless of domestic finishes.
Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report
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