UEFA president Lennart Johans-son and Michel Platini, his rival for the post, share a number of similar ideas in their election manifestos, but the future format of the Champions League is not one of them.

One of the key battlegrounds in their fight for the UEFA presidency which will be decided at the UEFA Congress in Dusseldorf on January 27, will be how UEFA's most lucrative competition should be organised in the years ahead.

Johansson, who was two years into his presidency when he oversaw the replacement of the old European Cup by the Champions League in 1992, admits that the competition has brought some problems.

But the Swede says it has had a hugely beneficial effect on European soccer, generating income of more than 5.0 billion euros since it began, with 635 million euros being given to national associations and leagues.

Platini maintains the Champions League has become too elitist and has stated his determination to support a Champions League open to more of Europe's clubs.

Launching his election campaign in London last week, Johansson said he was not in favour of changing the Champions League's format but conceded the competition had created a two-tier system in many leagues in Europe with the same clubs regularly appearing.

"I am not for a change," he said, "but perhaps we could look at the way the money from the Champions League is distributed in future," he said at a briefing.

"Perhaps the other clubs in the league could benefit from a greater redistribution of the money - not just the top three or four clubs.

"On another level we know there are five or six big footballing countries in Europe and what they earn from the competition also provides a main part of the income for many of the other 45 or 46 nations who all benefit from the Champions League."

Platini, who won the European Cup with Juventus in 1985, said recently he favours reducing the number of clubs qualified from England, Spain and Italy, for example, or whoever is at the top of the merit table in any given season from four clubs to three.

He would like the places freed up to go to the champions of some of Europe's "second tier" countries giving them direct access to the competition rather than having to gain a place through the knockout stage.

Platini also wants to preserve the Champions League as an "open" competition and not one that turns into a closed-shop.

"It is up to us today to consolidate the Champions League in the face of the threat to its future posed by the prospect of a European super-league modelled on the American NBA," he said recently.

Platini told the presidents of UEFA's member federations by letter of his fears for the competition from the G14 group of 18 of Europe's leading clubs to create a competition separate from UEFA.

"My position in this matter is simple and clear: yes to an open Champions League, no to a closed pseudo-NBA," Platini wrote, referring to the US basketball competition.

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