The president of Italy’s third-tier football league has criticised “elitist” plans to change the format of the Coppa Italia to shut out clubs below the top two divisions.

Reports in the Italian media said that the clubs from the top tier Serie A, met on Wednesday and agreed to restrict participation in Italy’s only national cup competition to the 40 teams of Serie A and Serie B from next season. The competition is run by Serie A.

“The decision of Serie A to exclude Lega Pro (Serie C) teams from the Coppa Italia not only violates common rights but is an expression of an elitist concept of football, incapable of having a vision for the whole system,” Lega Pro president Francesco Ghirelli said in a statement.

The ANSA news agency said the new format was aimed at making the competition more valuable to broadcasters by ensuring more exciting match-ups in the early rounds.

Serie B side Venezia responded to the news on Twitter by calling the plan “amazingly tone-deaf”.

Under the current format, the 27 Serie C teams and nine clubs from Serie D are involved from the first round.

The 20 Serie B teams join from round two, the 12 lowest-seeded Serie A clubs come in at round three, and the top eight Serie A sides only enter at the Round of 16.

Three Serie A clubs – Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan – joined six English and three Spanish clubs last month in an attempt to launch a breakaway European Super League, of which they would have been permanent members.

The plan fell apart after a wave of outrage from fans, football administrators and politicians.

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