Charlie Stillitano, one of the men behind the International Champions Cup, says there is a valid argument for richer clubs to be guaranteed a place in the Champions League.
Five of the Premier League’s biggest sides reportedly met with Stillitano in London this week to discuss the ICC, with the prospect of Europe’s top teams breaking away to form a new elite competition also rumoured to be on the agenda.
Arsenal stated their opposition to the idea this week, while another club said to be involved suggested to Omnisport such a league would be unworkable.
Stillitano is the chairman of Relevent Sports, which is owned by American billionaire Stephen Ross and runs the pre-season ICC competition.
Stillitano claimed there is an appetite among Europe’s heavyweights to see a change in format of UEFA’s elite club competition, suggesting places should be limited at the top level for the likes of surprise Premier League leaders Leicester City.
Asked if reform to that end was possible, he told SiriusXM: “I think it is. They’re talking about it all over Europe. At least a change in format.”
Discussing the argument of traditional European heavyweights taking places ahead of Leicester or Tottenham, he said: “What would Manchester United argue? Did we create soccer or did Leicester create it?
“Let’s call it the money pot created by soccer and the fandom around the world. Who has had more of an integral role [in creating it], Manchester United or Leicester?
“It’s a wonderful, wonderful story,” he added, referring to Leicester’s unexpected title challenge.
“But you could see it from Manchester United’s point of view too. Maybe that is absolutely spectacular unless you are a Manchester United fan, Liverpool fan … or a Chelsea fan.
“I guess they don’t have a birth right to be in it every year. But it’s the age-old argument: US sports franchises versus what they have in Europe. There are wonderful, wonderful, wonderful elements to relegation and promotion. And there are good arguments for a closed system.
“This is going to sound arrogant, and it’s the furthest thing from it, but suddenly when you see the teams we have this summer in the International Champions Cup you are going to shake your head and say, ‘Isn’t that the Champions League?’
“No, the Champions League is PSV and Gent.”
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