The G-14 lobby of leading European clubs have spoken out against UEFA’s proposed changes to the format of the Champions League, arguing that the overhaul of the competition goes against the wishes of the majority of clubs.

“We are very surprised by the decision,” said a G-14 statement released on Friday.

“This sudden ‘u-turn’ is not only in direct contradiction with the decision taken by the UEFA executive committee in December 2001 to maintain the current format, it also ignores the wish of the majority of the clubs having attended the UEFA clubs workshop in February 2002.

“We wish to express disappointment and disapproval with regards to the form in which UEFA proceeded in changing the format of the most important European club competition.”

UEFA announced yetserday that from 2003 onwards, they will replace the second group phase of the Champions League with an extra two-legged knockout round. The move will reduce the number of fixtures to be played, but crucially, as far as the G-14 group are concerned, it will also reduce the revenue potential for all clubs.

The G-14 believe that any reduction in club fixtures ahould be matched in the international arena and they have appealed to UEFA to make comparable changes in the international calendar.

“With the congested international calendar indicated by UEFA as the main reason justifying the change, G-14 reiterates that an alleviation of the fixture list may not be conducted on the back of club football only,” the statement said.

“G-14 therefore…requests a comparable reduction of dates reserved for national team matches, friendly matches in particular.”