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By Simon Stone
BBC Sport in Geneva
What was intended to be a critical meeting on the path to significant reform in European football ended with vague statements about further talks and deadlines that was extended for another 18 weeks on Tuesday afternoon in Geneva.
It wasn’t what the European Institution’ Association (ECA) had envisaged if they met in Malta summer time. Thenthey expected, this week they’d be finalising changes that would be passed on to Uefa for rubber stamping in advance of their beginning at 2024.
The measure of the problems ECA chairman Andrea Agnelli and his executive are currently facing was emphasised in discussions off from their principal press conference. The design differed slightly depending on who was speaking but the message was the same. Forget Plan A. Plan B is needed but, at this phase, no-one is entirely certain what that needs to be.
Agnelli attempted to deal with the situation but the Juventus chairman, generally so rested, had no definitive responses.
It was all rather unsatisfactory and a final press conference came into a fittingly terse ending when Agnelli was asked whether it was true he had asked the domestic leagues to get a decrease in the amount.
“No, no,” he said, climbing to his feet, before replying’no’ again if asked if he had mentioned it.
Agnelli and the ECA consider an overwhelming majority of the member clubs need reform of contest.
The initial proposal was for three contests, each with team stages. Moreover, the idea would be to own relegation and promotion between different competitions.
It was never made clear at which the additional match dates eight more than the current system – would come from. But, it had been envisaged TV income would be generated by the fluctuations and expand European competition, both in regard to the amount of clubs along with the games they played.
Immediately, their opposition was declared by some voices. The Premier League clubs released their announcement that was collective, and respective clubs made their feelings known.
ECA employees have spent the previous three months trying to find common ground that would permit the formulation of a plan which could be carried forward. It has become increasingly evident that this is impossible.
“The suggestion will be in the interests of most and it is a fantastic proposal,” said Agnelli. “Will this be the one that arrives first at the finishing point? It may not be.”
Although nobody stated it openly the attribute for the present impasse is being credited to the big five leagues of Europe, from Germany, Spain, Italy, France and England.
The atmosphere is these leagues are somewhat more concerned about protecting their lucrative national TV markets out of any erosion than they’re about the improvement of this continent as a whole, caused by the growth of the European game.
1 club from a large nation told BBC Sport he had no problem with England’s main nightclubs, northe Premier League as a complete given its validity and international attraction that is historic. He questioned why Italy’s sixth greatest club must benefit from extra TV revenues, a few of which came out of his own country, although the finances of his club reduced.
“The attractive we’re the fewer people wish to come into our matches and the quicker our players wish to depart for nightclubs in different nations,” he said.
“The big leagues are only interested in themselves. They don’t care about European competition. It is all about contest that is European. That’s the place the point where the interest will be.”
It is the self-centred interests of those big leagues Edwin van der Sar was speaking about if the prior Netherlands and Manchester United goalkeeper, currently building an impressive reputation as chief executive at Ajax, was speaking about when he said of the past three months:”There was plenty of suggestions and opinions from various stakeholders – some relevant, some untrue and insignificant, which is odd.”
“In the very top, some things need tweaking,” said former Crystal Palace midfielder Aki Riihalahti, now chief executive in Finland’s most renowned club HJK Helsinki. “At the other end, I’ve seldom seen such agreement. Change is required.”
The problem is the proposals were announced with such fanfare, an element of wariness was introduced within the process of knocking down them.
Despite many sources saying that initial idea is’dead’, a minumum of one delegate Switzerland has taken a view which he won’t feel a notion he believed would have’disastrous’ consequences for the national league his team plays has gone away, before an alternative plan was enforced.
Suggestions which were floated around the edges of conversations in Geneva this week have included a recurrence to the group stage of the Champions League, that was abolished after four seasons in 2003.
Such notions will be carried on board or discarded, with Agnelli stating the concrete deadline for change is 2022 as that is when Uefa must go into the marketplace for its TV rights cycle that runs from 2024.
The chances are on a collection of smaller changes, taking place over a period time, to modernize the European soccer landscape, though Agnelli did warn nightclubs not.
“We won’t get beyond an 80% satisfaction rate,” he said.
“You must not forget , the ECA is there to safeguard the marketing of soccer across all European countries, not merely a few who’ve been a bit more vocal lately ”
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