France’s Macron urges UEFA to scrap Champions League revamp

French President Emmanuel Macron, left, poses with a French National Women's Soccer team's jersey next to France's head coach Corinne Diacre. (Christophe Petit Tesson, Pool via AP)

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday joined the resistance against plans to turn the Champions League into a largely closed off competition.

The intervention adds to pressure on UEFA to abandon the concept being championed by elite clubs determined to lock in their positions in European soccer’s premier competition from 2024.

"We must defend our model, our clubs," Macron said, "and I think it’s not a good idea to sacrifice the viability of our model for the benefit of some at the European level."

The proposal to overhaul the competition has been challenged by leagues across Europe and French soccer federation Noel Le Graet. The concept could diminish the status of domestic competitions and make it harder for clubs from smaller leagues to earn a place in the group stage of the Champions League.

"We have often denounced the fact there is so much money in football and particularly men’s football in recent years," Macron said. "I am at the side of President Le Graet to defend the French model and avoid reforms that would lead to the worst."

Macron was speaking after meeting France players and coaches who are preparing for the start of the Women’s World Cup in Paris on Friday.

Ahead of kickoff, FIFA and its regional confederations are meeting in the French capital where Infantino is preparing for his uncontested re-election on Wednesday.

A look at talking points around the meetings:

CHINESE BIDDING

Get ready for a spate of soccer events in China.

First up could be staging the inaugural edition of FIFA’s revamped Club World Cup, which expands to 24 teams in 2021.

China is already sure of hosting the 2023 Asian Cup after being confirmed Tuesday in Paris.

And Asian Football Confederation President Sheikh Salman then said he wants the continent to unite behind a single candidate to host the 2030 World Cup, which probably means China.

"It is one of the biggest markets," said Sheikh Salman of Bahrain. "You look at the sponsors, and you look at the investment they have done."

His stand echoes UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, who wants only one European bid to avoid diluting support.

Europe has 55 of the 211 FIFA member federations and Asia has 46.

An expected European contender is a combined project from the British and Irish who held their latest bid project meeting at a hotel across the street from Asian soccer’s base this week in Paris. South America plans a coalition of Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, the original World Cup host in 1930.

FIFA has not announced a timetable for bidding and the vote.

AFRICAN CHAMPION CHALLENGE

There were protests outside the hotel where African soccer officials are staying this week.

Supporters of Tunisian side Esperance were demanding that the Confederation of African Football upholds their team’s controversial victory in the African Champions League final last week.

Esperance won the showpiece last week when Moroccan club Wydad Casablanca refused to continue playing because their equalizing goal was disallowed and no video replay was available. The players had not been told the video system wasn’t working.

After a long delay, Esperance was awarded the Champions League title and earned a spot in the 2019 Club World Cup.

But the CAF executive committee was discussing the incident and the outcome of the game.

"We are here to put pressure on them and to say that the decision on the field has to be confirmed," said Mehdi Ghandri from Esperance’s Paris fan group.

AFRICAN PRESIDENTIAL TURMOIL.

Infantino urged African members to "find solutions, not problems" amid allegations about the conduct of the continent’s soccer leader.

Confederation of African Football President Ahmad, who uses only one name, has been accused by former secretary general Amr Fahmy of bribing heads of soccer associations and misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"I know there is a certain amount of turbulence," Infantino told a CAF meeting. "I would urge you at this difficult point to always keep your cool and keep the spirit of solidarity."

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