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By Simon Stone
BBC Sport in Geneva
What was meant to be a vital meeting on the road to significant reform in football stopped on Tuesday afternoon with statements about deadlines and further discussions which had been extended for another 18 weeks.
It wasn’t exactly what the European Clubs’ Association (ECA) had envisaged if they met at Malta summer time. Then, they hoped, this week they’d be finalising adjustments that could be passed on for rubber of their inception in 2024.
The measure of the issues his executive and ECA chairman Andrea Agnelli are currently facing was emphasised in conversations away from their press conference. The general message was the same although the tone differed depending on who was speaking. Forget Plan A. Plan B is needed but, at this stage, no-one is entirely certain what that needs to be.
Agnelli attempted to deal with the situation however, the Juventus chairman, generally so relaxed, had no definitive answers.
It was unsatisfactory when Agnelli was asked if it was true he had inquired the domestic leagues to get a decrease in the number of teams that perform 43,, and a 35-minute closing press conference came to a fittingly terse end.
“Nono,” he said, climbing to his feet, until replying’no’ again if asked if he had ever mentioned it.
The ECA and agnelli believe an overwhelming majority of their member clubs need big reform of European competition.
The initial suggestion was for three competitions with group stages containing four classes of eight clubs. The thought would be to own relegation and promotion between the competitions.
It was never made clear where the additional game dates – eight over the system – would emerge from. But, it was envisaged the changes would create TV earnings that is greater and extend rivalry, both in regard to the amount of clubs and the games they playedwith.
Instantly, their opposition was announced by some voices. Their own collective announcement was introduced by Even the Premier League clubs, and individual clubs made their feelings known.
ECA staff have spent the past few months hoping to find common ground that would allow the formulation of a plan that could be taken. It has become evident that this is almost impossible.
“The suggestion is in the interests of most and it’s a fantastic proposal,” said Agnelli. “Can this be the one which arrives first in the finishing point? It may not be.”
Although no-one said it publicly, in private, the attribute for the current impasse is being attributed to Europe five leagues, from England, Spain, Italy, France and also Germany.
The feeling is those leagues are more concerned about protecting their lucrative TV markets out of any erosion caused by the expansion of the European sport, than they are about the betterment of this continent as a whole.
One club executive from a large country told BBC Sport he had no problem with the biggest nightclubs of England, nor the Premier League as a complete given global attraction that is historical and its validity. He contested the sixth club of Italy needs to gain from huge extra TV revenues, some of which came from his own nation, although the financing of his own club reduced.
“The attractive we’re the fewer people want to return into our games and the faster our players wish to depart for nightclubs in other countries,” he said.
“The big leagues are only considering themselves. They don’t care about European competition. It is about European competition. That is the point where the interest is.”
It’s the self-centred interests of those big championships Edwin van der Sar was talking about when the prior Netherlands and Manchester United goalkeeper, currently developing an impressive reputation as chief executive in Ajax, was talking about when he said of the past few months:”There was plenty of suggestions and feedback from different stakeholders – some relevant, some untrue and insignificant, which is odd.”
“At the top, a few things need pruning,” said former Crystal Palace midfielder Aki Riihalahti, now chief executive at Finland’s most renowned team HJK Helsinki. “In the opposite end, I’ve seldom seen this kind of agreement. Change is required.”
The issue is the first proposals were announced with such fanfare, a component of wariness has been introduced inside the procedure for knocking down them.
Despite many sources saying that first notion is’dead’, a minumum of one delegate Switzerland has taken an opinion which he will not feel a notion he believed would have’disastrous’ consequences for its domestic league his club plays in has gone , until an alternative plan was imposed.
Suggestions which have been floated around the borders of talks from Geneva have included a recurrence to the second group stage.
Ideas will be taken on board or lost, together with Agnelli stating when Uefa must go into the marketplace for its TV rights cycle that runs from 40, as that is the deadline for change is 2022.
Although clubs were warned by Agnelli not everybody required to be on board before proposals were placed to Uefa the odds now are on a set of adjustments, taking place to revise the soccer landscape.
“We won’t get past an 80% satisfaction rate,” he explained.
“You should not forget the ECA is still there to safeguard the marketing of football across all European nations, not merely a few who have been a bit more vocal lately .”
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