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Third UEFA competition important despite “little commercial value”

Champions League Trophy Display Event

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - AUGUST 03: A former Czech football player Vladimir Smicer poses with the UEFA Champions League trophy (L-R), UEFA Super Cup trophy and UEFA Europa League trophy during the UEFA Trophy Display Event on August 3, 2013 in Prague, Czech Republic. (Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images for UEFA)

Matej Divizna

MADRID (AP) A third European club competition will have “little commercial value,” European Club Association chairman Andrea Agnelli said Monday, but it will still be important for smaller teams seeking to increase their exposure.

The 32-team yet-to-be-named competition is being discussed with UEFA for 2021 and beyond. It would be played in addition to the Champions League and the Europa League.

“It’s difficult to see commercial value when you look at a third-tier competition because there is very little commercial value, but sometimes we have to listen to our fellow club members who want to participate more,” Agnelli said at a soccer conference in the Spanish capital. “The fact that they are participating in international games would allow them to grow and showcase their players going forward.”

The Juventus president said there were initial discussions about expanding the Europa League from 48 teams to 64, but the consensus was that it would ultimately hurt the second-tier competition which already “struggles” commercially compared to the Champions League. The solution was to reduce the number of clubs in the Europa League and have all three European club competitions played with 32 clubs.

Agnelli also said making adjustments to the new international calendar that will begin in 2024 is “the first thing we have to tackle” as European clubs.

He said clubs would like to see all the confederation tournaments being played at the same time every four years, on even years, to help free up vacation time for players.

“We have to think of a moment where players can have a proper four-week rest period,” he said. “And I’m saying this in the interest of all. Players are exceptional, but they are not machines. Football players are like Formula One cars, if you actually use them too much, they just break.”

FIFA has been leading talks to discuss the new calendar and issues such as the continental championships and when clubs must release players for national team duty.

Agnelli also said it would be ideal to limit the potential maximum number of games for clubs to 43 per season.

“I want to make sure we are well heard when we craft the next international match calendar,” he said. “The clubs are the ones that truly invest and take the risks.”