Platini faces defeat on Champions League shake-up

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The Independent Football

The Uefa president Michel Platini's proposals for domestic cup winners to qualify for the Champions League are facing defeat after he failed to receive strong support from the national associations. A meeting last week of the six biggest associations in Europe, including the Football Association, provided Platini with only lukewarm backing for his plans.

A compromise is expected to be put forward whereby each association would decide whether the cup winners should replace the lowest league qualifier for Europe's top club tournament. In England, that would almost certainly maintain the status quo of four clubs qualifying from the Premier League. However, Platini will not budge on his determination to reserve six Champions League group spots for the champions from the bottom 40 countries among Uefa's 53 members.

The likely effect would mean the fourth-placed side in England playing two qualification rounds instead of one. William Gaillard, Uefa's communications director and Platini's special adviser, said: "The principle of more champions from mid-sized countries is the core of the project and there will not be a compromise on that. The proposals for the domestic cups are very much the icing on the cake. The large associations would prefer for the proposal to be delayed by two or three years due to commercial contracts."

The changes will be discussed at a meeting of Uefa's strategy council on Monday, involving representatives of the clubs, the leagues and the players as well as Uefa's top brass.

Platini's hope is that by giving way on the domestic cup winner proposal he will persuade the council to back his plans to reserve the six group-phase places. One strategy council member said: "There was a key meeting involving the six big associations from Europe last week but only the Italians were very keen on the domestic cup proposal for the Champions League. All the others said they would want it delayed by a few years."

Gaillard said he was surprised by reports that G14, the grouping of elite clubs in Europe, was threatening a breakaway competition if Platini pushed through his reforms.

Gaillard added: "Relations with the big clubs have never been as good as they are today as a result of the club forum and the strategy council. We have talked to many clubs and we have not had any suggestion of this."

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