Football: Uefa plan to thwart super league threat

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RADICAL CHANGES to European football's three major club competitions could be announced within the next two weeks in an attempt to combat the threat of a breakaway European super league.

The plans are being considered by Uefa, European football's governing body, and although they are still at the consultative stage, are thought to include increasing the number of teams participating in the Champions' League - possibly from 24 to 32 - and merging the Cup-Winners' Cup and the Uefa Cup.

The developments come less than a fortnight after Manchester United and Arsenal first confirmed they are involved in secret talks about joining a super league, which is being planned by Media Partners International, an Italian-based marketing company that specialises in sports' rights and broadcasting consultancy.

It is understood that up to six English teams - the others being Liverpool, Newcastle, Chelsea and Aston Villa - have been approached to take part at some level in MPI's plans, whether as members of a two-tier league or as participants in a knock-out cup competition.

Gerhard Aigner, Uefa's general secretary, has been sufficiently worried about the proposals to seek face-to-face meetings with all the clubs involved, and it is believed he will have talks this weeks with Manchester United and Arsenal.

Aigner has said Uefa's "route to the future is based on consultation and co-operation" and it now appears Uefa is acting to head-off any possible threat of MPI ousting it as the main power in European football.

Uefa has not confirmed precisely what its plans are, but a spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that the issue will be at the top of the agenda when Uefa's policy-making executive committee meet in Monaco on 29 August, when clubs from around Europe - including the Premier League - will be present.

"It is a scheduled meeting of the executive committee, but the super league will be discussed," said the spokeswoman. She added that Uefa are considering changing the format of the Champions' League but denied the number of participants will change. She declined to comment on whether the two knock-out competitions will be merged.

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