European clubs group says UEFA is preparing third competition

GENEVA (AP) — UEFA is expected to add a third European club competition starting in 2021 to give teams from smaller countries more chances to play and earn money.

European Club Association (ECA) Chairman Andrea Agnelli said on Tuesday at a meeting that a UEFA panel has picked a preferred option of 32-team lineups in the Champions League, Europa League and a yet-to-be-named new competition.

The UEFA executive committee could approve the plan later this year, Agnelli said. The likely timetable for a decision is a meeting in Dublin on December 3.

Details of how clubs would qualify for a new competition have not been decided, the ECA and UEFA said.

Other discussions included when clubs must release players for national team duty, playing continental championships for national teams at the same time, and cutting back on domestic matches.

All three subjects are part of FIFA-led talks to agree on a new international calendar beyond 2024 — the year when widespread changes to football can take effect, Agnelli has said.

The plan for three competitions would create 16 new places and take 16 teams from the current 48-team Europa League group stage.

Change is being driven in part because of clubs from an elite group of wealthy leagues dominating UEFA club competitions. Even the second-tier Europa League has been won only by Spanish or English clubs for the past seven seasons.

ECA Vice Chairman Dariusz Mioduski said a third competition could help close a growing “financial gap and participation gap”.