The Champions League final could be contested outside Europe for the first time, new UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said on Thursday.
Ceferin told the Associated Press he will revive an open bidding process for the right to host the climax to the European club season and is open to the game being staged in New York.
“I think it might be an idea in future but we have to speak about it,” Ceferin said, highlighting how travel times across Europe can be as long as flights to the United States.
“To go from Portugal to Azerbaijan for example is almost the same or the same as if you go to New York. For the fans it’s no problem but we should see. It’s a European competition so let’s think about it.”
UEFA has until now been awarding the honour of staging its showpiece finals without any tendering process, with stadium hosts decided in secret by the leadership.
“The bidding process should be very clear because if you get the Champions League finals or Europa League finals as a political favour then it’s not OK,” Ceferin said.
“With a clear bidding procedure I will protect also the administration and myself because whoever tries to call us, to push us, to ask us for such a favour we will have a clear answer, ‘Sorry there are clear rules we cannot do it.’”
In his first major interview since succeeding Michel Platini as UEFA president last month, Ceferin displayed a willingness to innovate while not damaging the organisation’s lucrative competitions.
“The Champions League is the best sporting product in the world,” Ceferin said.
And the former Slovenia federation president will not sacrifice the success of the competition by shifting kickoff times to pander to expanding markets in Asia just to sweep up more television viewers or sponsors in the region. Most games start at 19:45 GMT, when much of Asia is asleep.
“From a financial point of view it’s not ideal,” Ceferin said. “We should think also about other markets, but how to do it exactly I’m not sure yet. China is financially interesting and the U.S. is not just financially interesting, but football is growing there.”
Currently only the final is played on a Saturday, but one option would be to also move the semifinals from their current midweek slot.
“There are some ideas about that because then China is not asleep because it’s Saturday and they can watch,” Ceferin said. “But there are many problems concerning that with the calendar of the leagues. National leagues are too important.
“You have the Premier League which is very strong. [Semifinals at the weekend] is an idea that came out but it’s too early to say anything concrete on it.”