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Sunday, July 19, 1998 Published at 05:21 GMT 06:21 UK

Sport: Football

Big clubs may go own way

Europe's big match but for how long? The Champions League final

The heads of some of Europe's leading football clubs, including Manchester United, are reported to be in London for secret discussions about the creation of a continent-wide superleague.

The plans are outlined in the British newspaper, The Sunday Telegraph, and the German tabloid, Bild.

[ image: The clubs want big matches for fans and money]
The clubs want big matches for fans and money
The Telegraph says the talks are so sensitive that none of the clubs involved will confirm they are taking place.

It is believed that up to 16 teams from across Europe are involved, including European champions, Real Madrid and their main rivals Barcelona, plus Paris Saint-Germain, FC Bayern Munich and Ajax Amsterdam.

Bild's Sunday edition says the get-together was initiated by the three Italian giants, Juventus, Inter, and AC Milan.

It is understood Manchester United may not be the only English club invited to take part, and there would initially be no promotion and relegation.

The British newspaper says that between 14 and 19 games would be played on midweek evenings depending on how far a team progressed.

[ image: The Premiership: will it remain a worthwhile trophy?]
The Premiership: will it remain a worthwhile trophy?
National leagues would continue at the weekends although there is debate about how important they would become if a club did not have to rely on results in its own country to qualify for European competition.

For this reason, any plan is likely to be opposed by national governing bodies as well as the continent's main organisation, Uefa which runs the current Champions League.

Although this competition is very lucrative, the clubs are known to be unhappy with it for two main reasons.

The first is money. Uefa negotiates the television rights and the clubs know they could make even more by doing this themselves.

Secondly, many clubs are unhappy with having to play Eastern European teams to qualify for the leagues.

Manchester United themselves willl have to travel to either Azerbaijan or Poland in order to qualify for this year's competition.

Beckenbauer looks ahead

These reports follow comments made by former German footballer Franz Beckenbauer at the World Cup.

[ image: Club versus country for Dutchmen Seedorf and Davids]
Club versus country for Dutchmen Seedorf and Davids
He predicted a club world championship would eventually take over from the World Cup as the most important football tournament.

The world cup winning captain and manager has an interest in this happening since he is currently president of Bayern Munich, one of the clubs reported to be involved.

According to the reports, the new competition could start as early as the 2000/1 season.

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