UEFA delays decision on proposed new Champions League format until next month

The plans included an increase from 32 to 36 teams.
UEFA delays decision on proposed new Champions League format until next month

By Jamie Gardner, PA Chief Sports Reporter

A decision on the future of the Champions League has been delayed until next month, UEFA has announced.

It had been expected that UEFA’s executive committee would approve an increase of 100 matches on Wednesday in a new-look format to come into effect from 2024.

However, UEFA said on Tuesday that the decision had been pushed back to the next ExCo meeting on April 19 “in order to finalise ongoing discussions”.

It has been reported that the delay has been caused by a disagreement over control of commercial rights for the new-look competition between UEFA and the European Club Association.

The changes proposed by UEFA in its ‘Horizon 2024’ package amounted to the biggest shift in the competition’s structure for decades.

UEFA had proposed an increase from 32 to 36 teams, with the clubs competing in one league rather than an eight groups of four.

Each side would play 10 matches under the so-called ‘Swiss model’ against teams of varying strength, with the top eight sides in the final league table qualifying automatically for the last 16.

Europe’s domestic leagues, through the European Leagues umbrella body, had expressed their opposition to the number of games – an increase from 125 to 225 matches – and the impact that would have on the calendar.

The Premier League is also understood to have concerns over UEFA’s proposals for changes to qualification.

Two of the extra four places would be awarded on historic performance, allowing a safety net to big clubs missing out on Champions League qualification via the conventional route and leaving open the prospect of teams leapfrogging higher-placed domestic rivals to secure a spot in a more lucrative competition.

Football Supporters Europe (FSE) has expressed its concerns about the proposed format changes from a fans’ perspective.

“In the current financial climate, it’s going to be difficult for people to afford more and more games,” its executive director Ronan Evain told German broadcaster DW.

“We’ll potentially lose whole generations (of supporters).”

One issue which will be discussed at Wednesday’s meeting is the admission of spectators to UEFA matches amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It is understood to be likely that the 30 per cent capacity cap set on October 1 last year could be increased, raising the possibility of bigger attendances at Champions League and Euro 2020 matches where local legislation allows.

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