European Club Association (ECA) chairman Andrea Agnelli believes the Champions League needs to change because it has become predictable.
Proposals for a revamp to European club football’s flagship competition, bringing in a promotion and relegation system, were reportedly shelved last month amid criticism and fears of a closed competition developing.
But Agnelli, who is also chairman of Juventus, insists there is no desire to move towards an effective European “super league”, even if he feels the Champions League current format is flawed.
“We started thinking, some months ago, about what is it that we want within the ECA. What are the principles we want to go by?” he said when addressing the Leaders Sport Business Summit at Twickenham on Tuesday.
“When I say ‘we’, I mean representatives from Poland, Greece, Finland, Portugal and also representatives from the big leagues.
“What we felt was, if we want to create a platform that allows for all clubs to succeed on and off the pitch, more European football is good for the game. Possibly the introduction of a relegation system to deliver sporting dynamism across Europe.
“If we think about the group stage of the Champions League, all of us can guess 15 out of 16 who will qualify for the last 16. The first two teams in each group of the Champions League are probably written. We want to find more relevant games.
“Much has been said about wanting to kill domestic leagues. No – we want to maintain symbiosis with the leagues. We absolutely agree that champions should have access to international competitions.”
Agnelli believes football is now vying for attention against non-traditional competitors, heightening to need for European club football to capture the imagination.
“We will now have to tackle a shift in consumer behaviour. We’re looking at ‘Generation Z’, the new digital natives who are turning into adulthood,” he said.
“We have to look at what is the behaviour of ‘Generation Z’. We should seriously start to think that the competitors are not clubs next door but League of Legends, e-sports, Fortnite. I think those are going to be the ones who are going to be our competitors going forward.
“It is fair to say and assume that, in the quarter-finals of the two competitions [Champions League and Europa League] you have six to seven of eight clubs that come from the big five leagues. That is mainly thanks to the economic advantage they have.”
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One of clubs who appear to have benefitted most from such competitive advantage are Agnelli’s own, with Juve chasing a ninth consecutive Serie A title this season.
Maurizio Sarri’s side moved to the summit on Sunday with an impressive 2-1 win at nearest rivals Inter.
“I think [Inter] are challengers. It was a good game on Sunday. It was a solid game,” Agnelli added.
“It is a domestic league. They are true in their values, when you have a stronger team it comes out over 38 games. The only exception is the Premier League, which is not as certain as in other countries.
“Bayern Munich Juventus, PSG, a duopoly in Spain with Real Madrid and Barcelona. This is an element of why reform should be put in place [in European competitions].
“I am happy with that [domination for Juventus], I won’t complain too much about it. But is this what a fan wants to see? Total domestic domination. You will find five out of eight teams winning the big five that are the usual suspects in Europe.”
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