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SPLIT: A third UEFA club competition is set to be introduced from the 2021-22 season with 32 teams in the group stage, the head of the association representing Europe’s biggest clubs said on Tuesday.

European Club Association (ECA) chairman Andrea Agnelli told his members at a meeting in Split that it would be a third-tier competition to run alongside the existing Champions League, UEFA’s showcase event, and the second-string Europa League.

The ECA later said in a statement that the proposal was to reduce the number of teams in the Europa League group stage from 48 teams to 32. The Champions League would continue unaltered with 32 teams.

“The ‘green light’ has been given to introduce a third competition, bringing the overall number of clubs to 96, as of the 2021-22 season,” Agnelli said, adding that it still had to be approved by European soccer body UEFA.

Agnelli is also president of Juventus and sits on the UEFA executive committee, occupying one of two seats allocated to club representatives.

Europe used to have a third competition for winners of domestic cup competitions, known as the Cup Winners’ Cup, but it was abolished in 1999. Domestic cup winners now enter the Europa League.

The ECA has previously called for more clubs to be involved in European competitions and a “greater certainty of matches” for participating clubs.

ECA vice-chairman Dariusz Mioduski later told reporters that “we seem to be entering the last stage of the discussions on how European football will look over the next several years.”

He said that the possibility of expanding the Europa League group stage to 64 teams, without introducing a new competition, had been looked at but discarded.

Mioduski, president of Polish club Legia Warsaw, said that it was too early to give details such as the name of the new competition or who would qualify.

“We are still working a number of issues around it — how the access would be allocated and how the qualification would look. One of the important things is to limit the qualifying rounds,” he said.

“There is already the question of revenue distribution, branding, coefficients.”

UEFA said in a statement that it was “constantly reviewing” the format of its competitions and “is looking at a variety of options in this respect.”

It said various ideas would be discussed “before any decision on potential changes would be made.”

Agnelli also repeated his call from last year for a drastic overhaul of the international match calendar, which is drawn up by global football body FIFA and allocates dates for national team games.

“A detailed assessment of the existing International Match Calendar is required prior to presenting a new model post-2024. The current model needs modernising,” he said.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2018