Barca eyeing expanded Champions League

BARCELONA - Barcelona would like to see an expanded European Champions League and have proposed reducing the number of clubs in top domestic divisions to free up time for more continental matches.

Javier Faus, a vice president of the La Liga champions, told Reuters it was unlikely Barca, or their great Spanish rivals Real Madrid, would ever quit domestic competition entirely.

"What would be very interesting for us however is over the next 10 years creating smaller domestic leagues and a larger Champions League," Faus, who is responsible for economic affairs at the Catalan club, said in an interview at Nou Camp stadium.

La Liga, which currently has 20 teams, could be shrunk to 18 or even 16 clubs, he added.

The current Champions League format involves 32 teams, split into eight sections of four in the group stage, followed by the knockout phase.

Expanding the competition would provide a means of boosting revenue from matchday receipts and television rights and could help clubs comply with new UEFA rules designed to prevent them spending more than they earn.

Barca, which is owned by its members, were the second richest European club by revenue in the 2009-10 season, according to Deloitte's latest ranking published last week.

They reaped 398 million euros, up from 366 the previous campaign and placing them behind top earner Real Madrid for a second consecutive year.

STADIUM RENOVATION

Faus said Barca would have no difficulty in complying with UEFA's new Financial Fair Play regulations, which will take effect from June 1 this year, and the club fully supported their introduction.

Although Barca was set to post a net loss of around 20 million euros this season that was primarily because of the deal that took out-of favour striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic to AC Milan and cost the club around 40 million, he added.

Barca were expecting a profit of some 40 million euros per campaign from next season, he said.

UEFA's new rules were unlikely to bring down the huge salaries paid to top players, Faus said.

However, he predicted some of Europe's biggest spending clubs, including Barca, Real, Manchester City and Chelsea, would likely be forced to limit spending on squad members.

Faus serves under club president Sandro Rosell, who took over from Joan Laporta at the end of last season.

The club was aiming over the next five years to increase revenue to as much as 550 million euros per season and cut net debt to 200 million from the current 400 million, Faus said.

Another priority will be to implement a cheaper renovation of the 50-year-old Nou Camp arena now that a 300 million-euro project mooted under the previous presidency has been deemed too expensive in the current economic climate, he added.

The area around the stadium would also be redeveloped and the club's basketball arena enlarged.


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