The UEF A Youth League has been approved by the organisation’s executive committee. The 32 clubs which qualify for the 2013-14 Champions League group stage will also be given the opportunity to participate in the Youth League from next season. A 96-game group stage will take place between September and December 2013, with fixtures being played around or on the same dates as the Champions League at grounds in close proximity to the venues used for those matches where logistics allow.
The eight group-winners and eight runners-up from the Youth League group stage will then participate in a knockout phase, played in single matches, from February 2014 onwards. The trophy will be named after UEFA honorary president Lennart Johansson. This format will remain in place for a second year before a review takes place. The launch of the Youth League is set to provide competition for the NextGen Series, which includes 24 top European clubs and is currently engaged in its second season. “We believe that the UEFA Youth League is an attractive additional proposition for UEFA Champions League clubs,” said UEFA president Michel Platini.
He added: “We have now created a competitive opportunity for youth players to be involved in international matches at club level. It allows us to provide a development opportunity and great experience not only for the players, but also for referees, who will be appointed on an international basis. Additionally, UEFA will also bring its organisational control to these matches, which will mirror closely the UEFA Champions League season. There are benefits for clubs, as they will be able to bridge the gap between their youth and first teams, and enhance their commitment to developing their teams at youth level. Our objective is only driven by a sporting perspective.”
The scheme is one of Platini's own favourites but how it helps the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Juventus etc develop their squads when they have the pick of talent world wide remains open to question. The other issue will come if some clubs decline the invite - does it become a 25 club competition or do they find replacements and and on what basis?
But as always the key to its success may well be sponsorship and the financia rewards than can be given back. It will be interesting to see who goes after any media rights and how much coverage the tournament might receive.