Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has warned that Europe’s leading clubs could withdraw from the ChampionsLeague next season if the changes to the competition’s format threaten their income.

UEFA’s new format for 2003-4 will see a reduction in the number of fixtures with the second group phase being replaced by a knock-out stage.

The knock-on effect of the changes is an anticipated loss of revenue and fear among certain clubs that they will not be able to meet their fnancial obligations.

UEFA claim that the reduction in fixtures is necessary if interestt is to be sustained in the face of dwindling television audiences for the group stages. Moreover, they argue, the fixture overload is a contributary factor in the growing number of injuries being suffered by many leading players.

However, Wenger claims the changes could force his and other clubs to create their own competition.

“UEFA have gone backwards,’ Wenger claims. ‘They could have chosen to make things progress but they have made them go backwards. This leads us, with Manchester United and other big clubs, to seriously consider alternatives given our financial obligations.

‘It is now necessary to readjust the current financial situation. Otherwise we’ll have no other choice but going elsewhere.”