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New Women's European league could be template for men's game

A new women's league featuring club teams from Belgium and the Netherlands could lead to similar competitions in men's football, according to UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino, reports SportBusiness. European football's governing body has given its approval for a three-year trial of the 16-team BeNe League. The results of the trial could lead to similar leagues in men's football, potentially allowing clubs from smaller leagues to compete more equally with the continent's elite on the European stage.

"We are having discussions with the associations on supra national leagues," Infantino told Bloomberg. "It's those who are more geographically aligned like the Nordics, Balkans. We have to wait for this test to be finished."

The financial strength of England's Premier League, Germany's Bundesliga, Spain's Primera Division and Italy's Serie A has been reflected in the fact that only one team outside these leagues has won the Champions League since Dutch giant Ajax recorded its last triumph in 1995.

The prospect of a trans-national league is not a new one with an 'Atlantic League', which would have included teams from Scotland, Portugal, Belgium and the Netherlands, ultimately collapsing amid opposition from UEFA in 2001.

Meanwhile, a host of Eastern Europe's leading clubs joined forces in November to unveil plans for a 'Balkan League' which aimed to raise the standard of football in the region and create an important new revenue stream. Infantino stated that the main obstacle for such a proposal would be in deciding how clubs would qualify for UEFA's competitions.

The BeNe League will see Belgian and Dutch teams play rivals from their own countries before the top four from each meet in the New Year. There also will be games between the four lowest-placed clubs.

"As two little countries together we will be more powerful," said BeNe League spokeswoman Ingrid Vanherle. "All eyes are on us to see if it's successful."

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Dave Williams

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