The Athletic have revealed that several clubs are open to the idea of playing Champions League matches outside of Europe in the future.
The report reveals this week will see a meeting of UEFA’s executive committee, as well as the general assembly of the European Club Association (ECA), in Istanbul.
Executives usually explore ways in which they can grow the sport and drive revenue during these conferences, and this week, one of the topics that is expected to be discussed is taking the Champions League outside of the continent to make meaningful games more accessible to the clubs’ global fanbases.
The Athletic state that Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, who also chairs the ECA and is a member of UEFA’s executive committee, is supportive of such discussions.
The report adds that the initial discussions would involve moving group stage fixtures to the US, China or the Middle East, rather than high-stakes knockout matches.
Playing the European Super Cup in these countries is also said to have been explored while UEFA are also allegedly considering the introduction of a four-team mini-tournament at the start of each season, which would include the previous season’s Champions League winners and three other leading teams.
The Athletic explain that the ECA have released the findings of their research on the matter, which finds that 34 per cent of football fans in China and 28 per cent in the US were influenced by a major competition or event to start following football.
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This kind of move will almost surely be met with opposition from local fans (or ‘legacy’ fans as they are now called), and rightly so. It would be ridiculous to move away from the home and away format of the group stages of the Champions League.
However, I suspect that this will come to fruition sooner rather than later, given how much clubs have to gain financially by playing games in different parts of the world.