US sports executive: Leicester City in the Champions League would hold back likes of Manchester United, European Super League still on the agenda

Joe Hall
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Charlie Stillitano (c) is chairman of the firm behind the International Champions Cup (Source: Getty)

Europe's elite clubs could make much more money by closing off the Champions League to smaller teams such as Leicester City, an American sports executive who met with the "big five" Premier League clubs on Tuesday has claimed.

Earlier this week executives from Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool held talks with Relevent Sports chairman Charlie Stillitano, who claimed "restructuring the Champions League" was discussed as well as the pre-season International Champions Cup (ICC) tournament organised by his firm.

Stillitano suggested that the prospect of a European Super League was on the agenda of top clubs whose moneymaking potential would be hampered by smaller teams such as Leicester breaking into the competition.

Read more: Could a European Super League really happen?

"When they came up with the Champions League, the idea wasn't to have PSV and Ghent playing in the knockout stage," Stillitano told US radio station SiriusXM.

"There are several different groups among Europe's top clubs that want a fairer share from the Champions League.

"When you see the teams in teams we have this summer in the ICC you are going to shake your head and say, 'Isn't that the Champions League?' No, the Champions League is PSV and Ghent."

Relevent Sports is owned by American billionaire Stephen Ross, who also owns NFL franchise Miami Dolphins.

Since 2013, it has organised the ICC, a series of pre-season tournaments held in China, Australia and the US featuring top European clubs such as Real Madrid, Juventus, Manchester United and AC Milan.

Stillitano said Relevent had held talks with Uefa about the ICC and that it was something European football's governing body "would like to integrate into their portfolio".

During a season in which Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool are all under threat of missing out on next year's Champions League, the European Club Association (ECA) has discussed the prospect of introducing wildcard entries to allow the biggest teams to compete.

Stillitano offered support to the idea, claiming a club like Leicester would not contribute as significantly to the money raised by the tournament.

"What would Manchester United argue: did we create soccer or did Leicester create [it]?" said Stillitano.

"Let's call it the money pot created by soccer and the fandom around the world. Who has had more of an integral role, Manchester United or Leicester? It's a wonderful, wonderful story - but you could see it from Manchester United's point of view, too.

“I guess they don’t have a birthright to be in it every year but it’s the age-old argument: US sports franchises versus what they have in Europe. There are wonderful, wonderful, wonderful elements to relegation and promotion and there are good arguments for a closed system.”

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