Champions League cup winners plan set to be shelved

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LISBON, Oct 25 (Reuters) UEFA president Michel Platini's plan to award Champions League places to domestic cup winners looks set to be shelved in a compromise with clubs and leagues opposed to it, sources involved in the talks said today.

Following opposition from Europe's top clubs and leagues to admitting cup holders into European soccer's top competition, Platini is expected to defer his plan in return for support in allowing lesser nations to earn places through their leagues.

''The principle was always to get more countries involved and more champions. The cup idea was the one UEFA thought was best.

But if we achieve the principle then we have achieved our goal,'' a senior UEFA source told Reuters.

''How we do that has always been open to discussion. That's why when we received opposition, we asked for alternative proposals,'' he added.

''Yes, it seems now that there is a huge body of opposition to the cup idea, but if we can reach a compromise then we will,'' another UEFA source said.

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) delivered their alternative proposal to Platini on Monday. A senior source within the EPFL said the organisation stated that the cup idea ''was non-negotiable''.

G14, which represents 18 of the most powerful clubs, three of which are members of UEFA's influential strategic committee, have also rejected the cup idea but are said to back a deal which allows more champions and national representatives.

The opposing groups believe that allowing cup winners into the Champions League would devalue the competition.

The final blow to Platini's plan, which he had hoped to implement from 2009-10, came in a communication from Europe's six biggest associations in which they also backed more entrants into the multi-billion euro competition but said they wanted the cup winners plan postponed.

''We wish that UEFA grants to the federations a reasonable delay of reflection and of internal consultation to allow for them to look serenely for a position of consensus,'' said the communication seen by Reuters and issued by the football associations of France, England, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

DEAL DETAILS According to sources involved, this reflection period is seen as being at least two years with a view to returning to the issue of the cup winners in time for the next series of talks on how the competition should be run.

The exact details of a deal involving UEFA, the clubs, leagues and associations have yet to be hammered out, but it is envisaged that at least 12 more places will be made available to lesser nations with around half of those being champions.

A number of extra automatic places in the lucrative group stage is also likely to be set aside for what UEFA describes as ''medium size'' nations, while agreement to grant automatic entry to a third team from England, Spain and Italy could also be met.

In an unusual twist, the leagues and clubs look set to agree to Italy, where the cup competition is run by the league and not the federation, awarding a Champions League place to its cup winners which it wants to do.

Reuters AB VP0010

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