Reports emerged this week that the so-called ‘Big Five’ clubs of English football had all met at London’s Dorchester Hotel for discussions with representatives of American billionaire Stephen Ross over the possible formation of a breakaway league.
It has since been claimed that the talks merely revolved around the pre-season International Champions Cup (ICC) tournament, which Ross’ company Relevant Sports operates.
But Stillitano, chairman of Relevant Sports, has confirmed that, alongside ICC talks, a discussion was also had over a “restructuring of the Champions League” that would guarantee the participation of the biggest and most popular clubs in the world, even at the expense of the likes of high-flying Leicester.
“What would Manchester United argue: did we create soccer or did Leicester create [it]?” Stillitano told US radio station SiriusXM.
“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.
“Maybe that [Leicester being in the Champions League] is absolutely spectacular unless you are a Manchester United fan, Liverpool fan … or a Chelsea fan.
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“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.”
Stillitano also revealed that Relevant Sports had held discussions with Uefa previously over the ICC and has even suggested that the pre-season tournament is currently more prestigious than the minnow-heavy Champions League.
“We have talked to Uefa in the past because they had an interest in our summer tournament. That is something they would like to integrate into their portfolio,” he continued.
“This is going to sound arrogant and it’s the furthest thing from it … but suddenly when you see the 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 Gent.”