Europe's big four leagues may have to stomach one less automatic place in the Champions League group phase in a bid to secure a fairer future for the competition beyond 2024.

Lars-Christer Olsson, the president of the European Leagues body which represents the interests of 36 professional leagues across 29 countries, including the English Premier League, is in favour of adopting a three-tier model for continental competition where qualification is based solely on domestic performance.

That puts him at odds with Andrea Agnelli, the president of Juventus who is also chairman of the European Club Association. He favours a 'pyramid' model featuring promotion and relegation, an increase in the number of group stage matches and more qualification places being decided by continental rather than domestic performance.

He argues it is vital for the ability of mid-ranking clubs from leagues outside the 'big four' to have greater long-term stability.

Olsson said Agnelli's proposals amount to a "closed league" which would "kill" domestic competition and believes the solution to allow the mid-ranking and smaller nations greater guarantees is to overturn a decision made by UEFA in 2016 to grant four automatic group berths to clubs from England, Germany, Spain and Italy, which came into effect at the start of last season.

He believes the distribution of Champions League revenue needs to alter too, suggesting up to 25 per cent should go to clubs not participating in European competition as a solidarity payment.

"The 2016 reforms took everyone by surprise," he said at the Leaders Week Sport Business Summit at Twickenham.

"There was no discussion and it should not be done that way. Giving four fixed positions to the top associations should be questioned because that closes the opportunities for others."

Asked whether he thought the leagues would go for that, he said: "I think some of the big leagues would be fine if they are all treated in the same way. If you are giving four positions to the Premier League and taking one away from the Bundesliga then you have a problem.

The president of the European Leagues body wants the spots to the top leagues cut


"The big leagues are prepared to participate in this discussion for something new if they are treated the same."
Olsson also believes part of the money paid to some of Europe's traditional powerhouses via a 'historical co-efficient' based on that club's long-term performance in the Champions League should be scrapped and should feed into the additional money going to smaller clubs and leagues.

"The historical co-efficient system should be taken away," the Swede said.

"It should be based on quality, not historic values. These two things should be discussed in the new format. If they are good enough, they qualify."

The Premier League is understood to be open to discussions on reforms to strengthen the complementary balance between domestic and European competition. However, talks are believed to be at a very early stage and no specifics have been discussed.

European Leagues and the competitions and clubs it represents are holding further meetings in London next week.

Olsson, who served as UEFA chief executive between 2003 and 2007, also rejected the idea of a return to a second group phase which was scrapped for the 2003-04 season.

"I was there at UEFA when it was scrapped because it was a disaster," Olsson said.

"If you look into the history, you can learn something."

Agnelli said an overhaul of European club competition was essential not just to ensure football's primacy but to keep it relevant in the face of competition from esports.

"We have to look at 'Generation Z' and we have to think that competitors of the game are esports and Fortnite. They will be competitors going forward," he said on Tuesday.

"In this whole positive story of growth in (the) last decade are elements that need to make us stop and ask where sport is going and how it is behaving.

"If we don't think about a progressive system we are simply protecting a system which is no longer there.
"We are protecting a system made only of domestic games that will have little interest from our kids."