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Sep, 15, 2011

UEFA risks Champions League uprising

The Champions League could be set for its biggest makeover since being re-branded in 1992, with the European Club Association [ECA] and the European Professional Football Leagues [EPFL] threatening to wrest control of the competition from UEFA unless a power struggle is resolved.

• FIFA prepared to reduce friendly dates

The ECA represents 201 European clubs, and while it has already demanded reforms to the international calendar, it is a desire for greater role for clubs in the game's decision-making processes that might prove a far more contentious issue.

ESPNsoccernet understands that a schism is forming between the ECA and UEFA as Europe's clubs and leagues are unhappy with what they perceive to be a lack of fair representation on UEFA's executive board, which makes the major football decisions on the continent.

Should the issue not be resolved, the ECA and EPFL are considering breaking away from UEFA and forming their own version of the Champions League.

Such a scenario would represent one of the biggest organisational splits in the history of the game, and arguably the most significant since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, which ended the old First Division's 104-year reign as the top tier of English football.

A source told ESPNsoccernet: "A Swiss court has found that while UEFA own the brand to the Champions League, the clubs and the leagues own the rights.

"If UEFA want to continue with the Champions league in its current form, then that's fine, but the clubs and the leagues throughout Europe want to be on the executive committee, and the suggestion is that the clubs and the leagues would want 50% of the places.

"The real battleground is sure to be over the call for the leagues and the clubs to have a workable percentage of executive board members on both UEFA and FIFA.

"If the leagues and the clubs own the rights to the Champions League, but not the brand, then there is nothing to stop the leagues and the clubs associations in setting up a new brand, the European League Championships."

As well as being unhappy with their representation on the UEFA and FIFA executive committees, the ECA and EPFL have regularly clashed with the governing bodies over the number of international friendlies on the football calendar.

ESPNsoccernet's source added: "If there is ever going to be a split, the time is right for one, the feelings for one has never been stronger. Much depends on how FIFA and UEFA sort themselves out, and meetings in Cyprus on the September 25 might tell us an awful lot more about what reforms are likely to go through, or whether they have to be forced through."

ECA president and Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has thus far spoken as the sole public voice to represent the clubs and the leagues, but the EPFL may soon have its own say, as its executive committee meet in Poland on Tuesday.

EPFL spokesman Alberto Colombo confirmed to ESPNsoccernet that the members are "concerned about football governance, want a proper working relationship on both UEFA and FIFA and want to be properly represented", though he refused to comment on the suggestion that the ECA and EPFL are seeking 50% of places on the FIFA and UEFA executive boards.

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