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Changes Afoot for Soccer's 'Ultimate Stage'?

  • UEFA.com, Friday, December 15, 2006 2:34 PM
Few in soccer would argue that the quality of play in the annual UEFA Champions League surpasses that of FIFA's World Cup. After the dour soccer on display at last summer's championship, pundits across the world reiterated as much. Among soccer officials, it's one of those widely assumed but seldom spoken notions. However, UEFA chief executive Lars-Christer Olsson, speaking Friday at the knockout draw in Nyon, Switzerland, laid out in detail why he thinks the Champions League is the "ultimate stage" for the world's players, adding that this year's competition is already shaping up to be one of the best. Said the Swede: "The success of this competition remains unrivalled, and much of that is down to its integrity as a sporting competition." As such, Olsson said it's vitally important to protect the tournament and the game. He called this a time when many challenges and pressures threaten the sport, and promised that UEFA will take "the necessary steps to defend and preserve its integrity and its unique place in today's society." What in the world does that mean? Should we expect new foreigner restrictions next year? Fewer slots for Europe's biggest teams? Salary caps? A limit to how much big clubs can spend relative to what they earn? Olsson didn't elaborate, but he did point out that this year's group stage produced 241 goals in 96 matches (2.5 goals per game), an increase of 13 goals over last season.

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