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LAWWELL PREPARED FOR EURO BATTLE

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CELTIC chief executive Peter Lawwell is determined to oppose plans by Bayern Munich president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge that would be likely to prove disastrous for clubs from so-called smaller nations in the Champions League.
The Hoops supremo flew to Geneva on Thursday to battle the German legend’s outline to restructure the competition that would end the “champions route” into the tournament.
Countries such as Scotland, Holland and and Portugal rely on that pathway to European club football’s biggest competition.
However, Rummenigge wants a new super league of 20 teams from the five biggest footballing nations – Spain, Italy, Germany, England and France – with little prospect of sides outwith that group gatecrashing the elite.
It is also understood the leading clubs want guarantees that the most powerful such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Chelsea will be allowed entry REGARDLESS of their league position.

That would leave less scope for the likes of Celtic, Ajax and Porto – the last club outside the top five nations to win the Champions League in 2004 – to qualify.

Such a move would be a hammer blow to the winners of the Scottish Premiership and was yesterday described as a “very sinister development“ by SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster.

Rummenigge is chairman of the European Clubs Association – of which Lawwell is a board member – which met in Paris on Wednesday to discuss reform.

The Bayern chief made it clear he wants major change and it is understood a number of elite clubs then met in Geneva on Thursday. Lawwell was at that meeting and it is understood he made his opposition to the proposals clear.

Rummenige has confirmed that a six to nine-month review of the Champions League has started within ECA and said: “I don’t rule out that in the future a European league will be founded, in which the biggest teams from Italy, Germany, England, Spain and France will play under the umbrella of UEFA or a private organisation,”

However, SPFL chief Doncaster said: “I think this is a very sinister development. For football fans around the world we should be very concerned about this.

“What we’re seeing now, quite worryingly, is that there are moves within the movers and shakers of European football to try to re-shape the Champions League, potentially remove the champion’s route and make it harder, perhaps impossible, for the champion clubs of smaller nations to participate in the Champions League.


“The likes of Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen, Ajax, Porto, these are huge brand names, huge clubs with great histories and great global fan bases. And there’s the possibility that some may try to limit or remove their access to the Champions League.

“So, I think, for football fans around the world, we should be very concerned about this and do what we can to ensure that the biggest clubs from all leagues retain that access to the Champions League and we don’t let the very biggest clubs in the biggest nations bully the rest of European football.

“The financial disparity is huge. It’s always going to be very difficult for the bigger clubs in smaller nations to compete on the same playing field with the bigger clubs in the biggest nations. But let’s remember it’s only a couple of years ago that Celtic were beating Barcelona at Celtic Park.

“What’s important is that clubs are given the opportunity to have a go. In a one-off game anything can happen.

“What’s vital for the health of the European game is that we protect that champions route.

“The big financial disparity is worrying, but we need to do what we can to try to redress that balance and to protect these big clubs in their own communities and try to limit the huge power of the very biggest clubs who seem to be dominating the agenda.”

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