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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 26, 2007

Platini plots Champions League changes

Michel Platini celebrated being voted in as the new UEFA president and then announced he will push ahead with controversial changes to the Champions League.

Platini, who won a tough contest against incumbent Lennart Johansson, will present proposals in April which from 2009-10 would limit the number of clubs in Europe's elite competition to three from any one country.

The Football Association and Premier League are expected to go to work to try to persuade Platini to maintain the status quo which allows England, Spain and Italy to have four clubs qualify.

Platini said: 'The new format of the Champions League is for 2009.

'I talked about finding a better equilibrium for the number of clubs and that's for 2009-10.

'The final decision will be (by UEFA's executive committee) in April so we have a few months still to see which way we will go, but I would like a better equilibrium, it is very close to my heart.

'If you are just talking about one club in England that doesn't convince me that it's not the right thing to do.'

Many of Platini's backers among the smaller European countries will certainly expect him to pursue that course.

FA chief executive Brian Barwick would not comment on the Champions League plans, saying today was just for wishing Platini well and recognising the legacy of Johansson's 17 years in office including the 'special event' that the tournament has become.

Speaking at the UEFA Congress in Dusseldorf, Germany, Barwick said: 'Michel has been in the post moments and there are lots of conversations to be had going forward.'

Asked about the necessity to keep a balance in the Champions League, 'Absolutely, it's not worth pre-judging anything, this day is about Michel Platini being successful for which we congratulate him and to thank Lennart Johansson who has done a fantastic job.

'What will go on in the future is in the future. We know Michel very well and we have another four years to get to know him even better.'

The 51-year-old Frenchman becomes the most powerful man in European football after he was elected by 27 votes to 23.

He will serve as UEFA president for the next four years and will also replace 77-year-old Johansson as a FIFA vice-president. Platini immediately invited Johansson to become an honorary president of UEFA.

The former France captain and coach said: 'This is just the beginning of an adventure.

'I'm happy today to be able to represent European football, I'm very moved and very happy.

'When I was a footballer, when you won a great victory you received a cup and went on a lap of honour. This is a great victory for me but I'm not going to do a lap of honour because now the work starts.'

The election victory followed a tense election campaign which descended into bitterness in the days leading up to the vote.

In his final address to the 52 UEFA member associations, Johansson launched an angry attack at FIFA president Sepp Blatter who had publicly backed Platini at the opening of the Congress yesterday.

Johansson said: 'I appreciate the FIFA president's words about what we have achieved in the 17 years of my presidency but I cannot appreciate it when the FIFA president interferes in an election process here in UEFA.

'It's not the FIFA president, it is you the Congress taking the decision.'

Johansson had appealed for support, saying: 'You should never change a winning team and I think I have been the coach of a winning team.'

In his speech Platini tried to limit any damage caused by Blatter's remarks.

Platini said: 'You have the future of European future in your hands. I have been able to carry out the campaign I wanted and without attacking my opponent.

'We must always see to it that the strong help the weaker ones. Let's defend the national associations against the interests which are threatening them.

'It is a game before a product, a sport before a market, a show before a business.'

Platini has tried to appeal to the smaller countries and also supported a proposal by the Scottish FA for UEFA to carry out a feasibility study into expanding the European Championships finals to 24 teams.

The election result was close - had Platini won two fewer votes he would not have achieved an absolute majority of the 50 valid votes and a second ballot would have been held.

Johansson's age has not helped his cause, especially with UEFA having a rule that committee members must retire at the age of 70.

Irish FA president Jim Boyce said: 'I am not surprised - Lennart Johansson's age has definitely been a big factor but I have great respect and admiration for the man.'

FIFA president Sepp Blatter welcomed the win for Platini, who worked as his special adviser between 1998 and 2002.

Blatter said: 'The result is no surprise to me. I'm happy I will be working with someone who has the same vision for football as I do.'

The future of UEFA chief executive Lars-Christer Olsson is now in doubt, and the Swede is widely expected to resign.

Platini has announced he is to move to UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, to take a more hands-on role than Johansson.

A Premier League spokesman said: 'Clearly the election of a UEFA president is a matter for UEFA. We look forward to continuing to work with UEFA and Mr Platini on a wide range of issues.'