UEFA President Michel Platini has presented his ideas and philosophy to representatives of Europe's leagues, clubs and players in a historic first meeting of the new UEFA Professional Football Strategy Council in Monaco.
At the meeting, Mr Platini put forward proposed changes to the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup formats from 2009, as well as other ideas in line with the philosophy which he has pledged to implement following his election as UEFA President in Dusseldorf in January.
The Professional Football Strategy Council brings together UEFA's vice-presidents, four representatives of the clubs elected by the European Club Forum, four representatives of the leagues nominated by the European Professional Football Leagues and four representatives named by the European section of the players' union FIFPro.
In Monaco on Thursday, Mr Platini revealed his proposal for the UEFA Champions League format from 2009 to 2012, which will be presented to the UEFA Executive Committee for decision this autumn. Under the concept, the UEFA Champions League group stage would continue to comprise 32 teams as now. A total of 22 teams would qualify automatically - the title-holders, three clubs each from the top three associations in the UEFA rankings, two each from the associations in positions 4-6, and one each from positions 7-12. This would mean six more teams qualifying automatically than at present, and increase the number of guaranteed places for mid-range national associations.
Two qualifying routes
It would then leave ten remaining group-stage places. Two qualifying routes are proposed - a three-round qualifying phase featuring 40 domestic champions, which would lead to six more champion clubs qualifying for the group stage, and another two-round qualifying phase involving the domestic cup winners of the first 16 associations in the UEFA rankings, with four domestic cup winners going through to the group stage.
Domestic cups value
"We will not be changing the [32-team] format, but, among other things, I would like to give additional value to domestic cups," said Mr Platini, who explained that the number of potential participants from each association would not be affected and would even be increased.
"We have presented these proposals to the Strategy Council, and to comply with the wish for reflection, especially on the part of the leagues," he added, "it has been agreed to postpone the [Executive Committee] decision from September until its meeting in November".
The proposed new UEFA Cup format for 2009-12 features a group stage involving 48 teams - the title-holders, ten teams from the UEFA Champions League qualifying phase and 37 teams from the UEFA Cup qualifying phase. These 48 teams would be divided into 12 groups of four teams playing six matches on a home-and-away basis. The group-winners and runners-up would go into the knock-out stage and would be joined by eight teams who finished third in their groups in the UEFA Champions League group stage.
Fans at finals
Other ideas that Mr Platini put forward in Monaco include a wish that for major finals, 75 per cent of the spectators should be fans, rather than commercial partners, sponsors or VIPs. In addition, he proposed the playing of the UEFA Champions League final at weekends to enable more families and children to attend the match, and expressed the wish that the final should be played in a large modern stadium designed for football with a minimum capacity of 70,000 places. "I did not see any children at the [recent] final in Athens," said the UEFA President. "If the final were to be played on a Saturday evening, families and children could go to see the match."
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