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By Simon Stone
BBC Sport at Geneva
What was meant to be a critical meeting on the path to significant reform in football finished with vague statements about deadlines and talks that had been extended for another 18 weeks on Tuesday afternoon in Geneva.
It wasn’t what the European Trainers’ Association (ECA) had envisaged when they met in Malta this summer. Thenthey hoped, this week they’d be finalising adjustments that would be passed to Uefa for rubber stamping ahead of their beginning at 2024.
The measure of these problems his coworkers and ECA chairman Andrea Agnelli are facing was emphasised in conversations off from their principal press conference. The design differed slightly depending upon who spoke but the message has been roughly the same. Forget Plan A. Plan B is needed however, at this phase, nobody is completely sure what that must be.
Agnelli attempted to deal with the situation but also the Juventus chairman, normally relaxed, had no definitive responses.
It was all unsatisfactory when Agnelli was asked whether it was true he’d asked the domestic leagues to get a reduction in the amount and a final press conference came to a terse end.
“No, no,” he said, climbing to his feet, until responding’no’ again when asked if he had ever mentioned it.
The ECA and agnelli believe an overwhelming majority of their member clubs want reform of European contest.
The suggestion was for three contests, each with team phases. Furthermore, the notion would be to get relegation and promotion between the different competitions.
It was not made clear where the game dates – eight over the system – would come from. It had been envisaged TV earnings that is increased would be generated by the changes and expand European competition, both in terms of the amount of clubs along with the matches they playedwith.
Immediately, their opposition was declared by some voices. Their very own announcement that was collective was released by the Premier League clubs, and respective clubs made their feelings known.
ECA employees have spent the past three months seeking to find common ground that would enable the formulation of a plan which may be taken forward. It has become obvious this is practically impossible.
“The suggestion is in the interests of everybody and it is a fantastic proposal,” said Agnelli. “Will this be the one which arrives first at the finishing line? It might not be.”
Although no-one said it openly, in private, the blame for the current impasse is being attributed to the large five leagues of Europe, from Germany, Spain, Italy, France and England.
The feeling is those leagues are somewhat more concerned about protecting their lucrative national TV markets in any erosion brought on by the growth of the sport, than they’re about the betterment of the continent as a whole.
One club executive from a large country told BBC Sport he had no issue with England’s most important nightclubs, nor, grudgingly, the Premier League as a complete given attraction that is historic and its competitiveness. He questioned why Italy’s sixth best club needs to benefit from huge additional TV revenues, some of which came out of his own nation, although the financing of his own club were reducing.
“The less attractive we are, the fewer people wish to come to our matches and the quicker our players wish to leave for nightclubs in different countries,” he said.
“The big leagues are only considering themselves. They do not care about European contest. For us, it is all about competition that is European. That’s the point where the interest will be.”
It is the self-centred interests of those huge championships Edwin van der Sar was talking about if the former Netherlands and Manchester United goalkeeper, now developing an impressive reputation as chief executive at Ajax, was talking about when he stated of the past three weeks:”There has been plenty of suggestions and opinions from various stakeholders – some relevant, some untrue and insignificant, which is odd.”
“At the very best, some things need tweaking,” said former Crystal Palace midfielder Aki Riihalahti, now chief executive in Finland’s most famous club HJK Helsinki. “In the opposite end, I’ve seldom seen this kind of arrangement. Change is needed.”
The issue is the initial proposals were announced with fanfare, a component of wariness has been introduced inside the procedure for knocking them back.
Despite many sources stating that first idea is’dead’, at least one delegate in Switzerland has taken an opinion which he will not feel an idea he believed would have’disastrous’ consequences for the national league his club plays in has gone , before an alternative strategy was enforced.
Ideas that have been floated around the borders of discussions in Geneva this week have included a return to the group stage.
Notions will be carried on board or lost, together with Agnelli saying when Uefa has to go into the marketplace for the TV rights cycle that runs from 40, as that’s the deadline for change is 2022.
The odds now are on a set of smaller adjustments, taking place over a longer period time, to revise the football landscape, although nightclubs were warned by Agnelli not everybody required to be on board before proposals were put to Uefa.
“We won’t get beyond an 80% satisfaction rate,” he explained.
“You have to remember, the ECA is still there to guard the advertising of soccer across all European nations, not merely a few who have been a bit more vocal lately ”
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