DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Europe's top football clubs are enthusiastic about giving automatic Champions League places to the Europa League finalists.

European Club Association teams responding to a survey about UEFA club competitions backed introducing the idea in 2015, the 200-member group said Tuesday.

The ECA is holding its biannual meeting in Qatar, and is using the visit to monitor preparations for the 2022 World Cup.

"The clubs have a responsibility toward their players; therefore, ECA was happy to accept this invitation," ECA chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said in a statement.

The ECA could one day be influential in a mooted debate about switching the 2022 World Cup from the searing Gulf heat of June-July to a cooler November-December slot, in the heart of the traditional European club season.

In the coming months, clubs will give feedback to UEFA on shaping club competitions for the 2015-18 commercial cycle.

UEFA wants to boost clubs' and broadcasters' interest in the Europa League, which is unpopular with some for a complicated format, too little prize money and Thursday match slots.

One option is fast-tracking entries to the lucrative group stage of the next season's Champions League, which attracts more than €1.3 billion ($1.76 billion) in revenue annually.

Of 87 ECA members surveyed from 36 countries, 61 percent "would welcome" the idea, though the effect on allocating 32 group places across UEFA member countries needed to be considered.

Clubs overwhelmingly want the Europa League, for lower-ranked teams and domestic cup winners, to survive alongside the elite Champions League, the ECA said.

"European clubs are very happy with the current competitions and do not wish to see major changes to their structure," the statement said.

Earlier, Rummenigge was joined by ECA board members, including Barcelona President Sandro Rosell, to meet with Hassan Al Thawadi, the secretary general of the World Cup organizing committee.

"It is important to get a first impression which is based on personal experience and not driven by third parties," Rummenigge said.

Of 153 clubs represented in Qatar, Malaga was there to hear the ECA leadership remind them that clubs must conform to UEFA's financial fair play and club licensing rules.

Malaga has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to challenge a one-season ban from UEFA competitions for failing to pay salaries and social taxes on time.

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AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report.

 

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