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Last Updated: Monday, 20 March 2006, 08:26 GMT
G14 eyes Champions League changes
By John Sinnott

Champions League trophy
The G14 group has floated the idea of a bigger initial Champions League stage
Europe's biggest clubs want the format of the Champions League changed to increase the number of games.

A 2003 revamp led to more knockout ties but fewer games overall and G14, whose 18 members include Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United, wants a rethink.

"We are not talking about doubling the number of games, it may be adding just one or two," Barcelona vice-president Ferran Soriano told BBC Sport.

"We have to have the opportunity to participate in the final decision."

We want more games and guaranteed competition all the time
Barca vice-president Ferran Soriano

The G14 group, which at the weekend denied reports it was planning to take control of the Champions League, represents 18 of the world's richest clubs, including Barcelona.

The general consensus is that the change in format has stimulated greater competition and excitement in the Champions League, highlighted by Porto's victory in 2004 and Liverpool's triumph in 2005.

But Europe's top clubs were furious that when the format change was initially proposed in 2002 they were not consulted about the restructure that led to the second group stage being replaced by another knockout round.

The new format ensured that teams played 12 games instead of 16 to reach the final.

"The last time it was changed from two group stages to one we couldn't say anything and that can't happen again," added Soriano.

"In general terms the Champions League is a fantastic competition but we want to have more games if possible.

Samuel Eto'o
Barcelona were without Samuel Eto'o during the African Cup of Nations

"We also want to guarantee competition in every game - in some of the final group games there is no real competition because the first and second place is already decided.

"We want more games and guaranteed competition all the time."

Soriano refused to confirm the G14's preferred format for a revamped Champions League but he floated the idea of a bigger initial group stage.

G14 wants the format change in place by 2009 at the latest - but preferably for the start of the 2008 season.

The Barcelona vice-president added that any increase in the number of Champions League games would have an impact on the international football calendar.

"More match days for the Champions League is an issue for the national associations as regards international dates and that comes back to the calendar," he said.

"If those decisions are only taken through the national associations' point of view then we are not maximising the global benefits."

Last week G14 released a 10-point plan seeking a direct vote for clubs in Uefa and for the organisation to be included when the international calendar was agreed.

As part of the plan G14 wants "adequate compensation" for the release of players for international matches - and for players who are injured when on duty for their country.

The clubs also want a share of the revenue from the World Cup and European Championship - if their players are on show at those tournaments.

Soriano said: "We want to be present in the decision bodies and whether that is through G14 is not so relevant.

"We want a more intense participation at an official level."

"We are key players in the industry and want to have the same power to decide as the national associations."

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has ignored G14, arguing that national associations should reimburse clubs.

But Soriano said he was hopeful G14's concerns would be resolved by the end of 2006.

"We are not talking about a power struggle, about trying to get more money, about trying to be more greedy," he insisted.

"It is about participation in the industry and that is no different from any other business in the world.

"I think the year 2006 will be a key year and that we will have a clearer situation and a better balance at the end of it."





SEE ALSO
Chelsea deny application to G14
19 Mar 06 |  Chelsea
G14 clubs deny breakaway reports
18 Mar 06 |  Football



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