United chief denies 'G14' breakaway plan

Manchester United chief executive David Gill has denied Europe’s richest clubs want to break away and form their own version of the Champions League.

Manchester United chief executive David Gill has denied Europe’s richest clubs want to break away and form their own version of the Champions League.

The group of clubs, known as ‘G14’, includes United, Arsenal and Liverpool from the Premiership and a leaked report last week suggested they were involved in moves to set up their own European competition.

But while Gill rejected the claims, saying they were quite happy with the way UEFA run the Champions League, he did admit the clubs wanted to change its format.

“I can categorically deny that we, along with all the other clubs, have absolutely no interest in forming our own league,” declared Gill.

“We are very comfortable with UEFA running the Champions League, it is the best club competition in the world. Why would we change it?

“I think the last time the clubs considered forming their own league was back in 1998 but that was reviewed, looked at and quickly dismissed.

“But it was used as a method by UEFA to re-look at the Champions League and increase the returns and it was at that time the format was changed.

“There has been no discussion or review of any changes since then. This story has emanated from a vision document drafted by the management of G14.

“We saw it, as clubs, for the first time as a draft at a meeting in Brussels a few weeks ago. It was categorically and unanimously rejected by all the clubs and the management was sent back to the drawing board.

“It is not in our interests to break away. We firmly believe that the UEFA Champions League is a pre-eminent competition for clubs in the world and why would we change a winning formula?”

But Gill pointed out the clubs would like UEFA to have a fresh look at the structure of the Champions League by returning the number of match days from 13 to 17.

“What the clubs would like to do is look at the actual format of the champions league run by UEFA,” Gill said.

“What we as G14 have done is retained some people to look at how the Champions League can return, we believe as clubs, from 13 match days to 17 match days.

“We, as clubs, were not happy, by and large, with that reduction when it was made three years ago and we would like it to return back to that level.

“We’ve done some work which looks at how that can be accommodated and it requires some changes – particularly in respect to the calendar.

“I’ve been in football now since 1997 and this old problem of the international calendar has never been solved. We’ve tried to look at solutions within that.

“The proposal is not to go to UEFA and say ‘go from 13 to 17’ but ‘this is how we can do it.’ We may be right or we may be wrong but let’s have a dialogue about it.

“But UEFA are not owners of the Champions League. It has been decided and agreed by the European Union that the clubs are co-owners of the competition - it’s not UEFA.

“But we need them because they are an excellent body. They are the key body in European football and it is quite right they run it. They put on, through marketing, an absolutely fantastic event.

“The clubs and UEFA can work very well. You need someone to organise a competition.

“It goes without saying the clubs don’t want to do that. We have no interest in running the competition,” he told BBC Radio Five’s Sportsweek programme.

Gill’s denial of any breakaway plot was backed by his Liverpool counterpart Rick Parry.

Parry said: “It has never been on the agenda or discussed as far as we are concerned.

“There are attempts made to muddy the waters and detract away from the real issues that are being debated but that has never been on the agenda.”

But while Liverpool and Manchester United presented a united front on the subject, the very existence of G14 was criticised by Everton chief executive Keith Wyness.

Wyness insisted Everton would turn down any chance to join the elite group and claimed it was a ‘dangerous’ organisation based on greed and self-interest.

When asked if Everton would like to be a member, Wyness replied: “No, absolutely not. We would turn it down.

“It is a very dangerous group motivated by greed and self-interest and is very damaging to football.

“It is a self-appointed group that doesn’t really cover the voices of the clubs. There is some sort of secret handshake to get into it and there are no membership rules at all.

“It is quite dangerous the way it is trying to polarise the game even further.”

But Parry countered: “It is not a dangerous group. There is nothing wrong with the major clubs exchanging views on issues of common interest. Getting into Europe is easy, you just have to win football matches.”

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