UEFA President Lennart Johansson has called for national associations to reduce the size of their domestic leagues to help international football to regain its primacy within the game.
The desire to boost international football was at the heart of UEFA’s decision to reduce the number of fixtures in the Champions League, admits Johansson, and the UEFA chief has implored the domestic leagues to follow suit.
‘I always say that I see football being in this order,” said the UEFA President. “One, there is international football, two there is domestic league football and three there are the international club tournaments.
‘What do youngsters think of when they look at David Beckham play? Of course they may want to play for Manchester United, but they want to play for their country first – that is their aim.
“Perhaps you could say that I am naive, but I understand the necessity to reduce the amount of matches being played. We need to reduce the size of first divisions, to restrict the amount of cup competitions, and to concentrate on the World Cup and European Championship.
‘We have diminished the amount of matchdays in the UEFA Champions League from next season in order to have certain days free for international football.”
UEFA decided last year to get rid of the second group stage of the Champions League from 2003-04 onwards and replace it with a 16-team knockout round. This would mean that the teams reaching the final would play 13 matches, rather than the 17 games played under the current format.