Football: Real are opposed to Uefa revamp

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PLANS BY Uefa, European football's governing body, to revamp its tournaments were given a lukewarm reception by some of the Continent's leading clubs yesterday, increasing the likelihood of a breakaway super league.

Real Madrid came out firmly in favour of the renegade league being planned by the Italian company, Media Partners, while Manchester United gave an indication they might also find non-Uefa proposals financially more attractive.

The Real Madrid president, Lorenzo Sanz, completely rejected Uefa's plans, which would see the Champions' League expanded to 32 teams, and the Uefa Cup and Cup-Winners' Cup merged next season.

"I'm staying with the Media Partners project because it offers more money than that of Uefa," Sanz said. Uefa had said there would be more money for participating clubs, and although no figures were fixed, the prize fund is reported to be around pounds 320m, under half the pounds 750m being offered by Media Partners.

Martin Edwards, Manchester United's chairman, implied Uefa's proposals will not go far enough to satisfy his club. "We're one of three English clubs [along with Arsenal and Liverpool, who made no comment yesterday] talking to Media Partners and we'd welcome some more details from Uefa," he said, adding he was waiting for confirmation of prize-money available under Uefa's plans. "We're waiting to see if it's as good as Media Partners," he said. "More flesh needs to be put on the bones [of Uefa proposals]."

A spokesman for the Premier League said the League "broadly welcomed Uefa's commitment to reform." He added, however: "There is still an awful lot of detail to be discussed and agreed."

Elsewhere in Europe, a spokesman for Benfica said: "We are still waiting for the final details to make a proper study of the proposals." He added: "One thing is certain. The clubs were being badly treated by Uefa when it came to distributing money that the clubs themselves were generating."

A spokesman for Ajax said there would be no comment until Uefa announced definitive and final proposals, while the executive president of Marseilles said there was more to be done. "Uefa have the cards in hand to do this but they must also learn that the clubs have become adult and the Champions' League is no longer a kindergarten."

Villa Park will stage the final of this season's European Cup Winners' Cup, giving Chelsea the chance of "home" advantage if they can reach the final in their defence of the trophy.

The match, which will take place on 19 May 1999, could be the last ever in the tournament's 37-year history if Uefa's proposal to merge it with the Uefa Cup comes into effect.

The European Cup final will take place at the Nou Camp stadium, Barcelona, on 26 May, while the Uefa Cup final is scheduled for the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, on 12 May.