Juventus president and head of the European Club Association (ECA) Andrea Agnelli seems to have changed tack on his thoughts on clubs competing in continental tournaments.
He now believes they should only enter on sporting merit.
Last March, Agnelli controversially stated that bigger clubs should be given increased chances of participating in Europe’s elite competitions over teams “without European history” that had enjoyed one good domestic season. He used Juve’s Serie A rivals and 2018-19 Champions League quarterfinalists, Atalanta, as an example.
However, while speaking Wednesday at conference event Think Sport 2021, Agnelli appeared to change his mind in the wake of last week’s leaked plans for a breakaway European Super League. A proposal document outlined a 20-team format outside of UEFA’s jurisdiction, with 15 permanent members and five annual qualifiers, The Times’ Martyn Ziegler reported.
“Increase the stability and participation, keep access from the domestic level, competitions at the European level should be open to all,” Agnelli said as he backed a Champions League revamp over a new Super League, according to Reuters.
“So we, as the managers of the industry, we must keep the dream alive, which is one of the mantras of our history,” he continued. “Everything should be based on sporting matters, of sporting merit, but that we should remember where the fans of the future are going, so there is a strong view that more European matches are welcome.
“It is not just about England, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, but we must embrace also the lower competitions, guarantee an adequate European representation but at the same time offer stability of participation. Stay ahead of new competitors in the changing media environment and respect and nurture the interests of domestic championships.”
Multiple reports have linked Real Madrid president Florentino Perez with the latest Super League proposal, but the club has declined to comment on the matter. Outgoing Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu claimed in October that the Catalonian outfit had accepted a Super League invitation – a week after reports surfaced that Wall Street bank JP Morgan, Liverpool, Manchester United, and a host of other European heavyweights from UEFA’s top five domestic leagues had drawn up their own 18-team competition.
FIFA has already hit back at any notion to create a breakaway competition. The governing body last week threatened to ban any players who participate in a proposed European Super League from its tournaments, including the World Cup.
A new-look Champions League is expected to begin in time for the 2024-25 campaign. UEFA is reportedly working on a revision that would scrap the current group-stage format and adopt a new financial distribution structure.
Agnelli declared himself a fan of the early proposals – attributing them to Dutch club and ECA member Ajax – but said he wants his organization to have the final sign-off.
“What I can tell you with certainty is that … I will want any and all reforms to go through the General Assembly of the ECA with all clubs voting for whatever our collective future will be,” he said.