Uefa ‘mulls Champions League format changes’, labels Super League plans ‘boring’

UEFA Champions League trophy during 2020/21 Preliminary Round draw at on July 17, 2020 (Photo by Harold Cunningham - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

Uefa is considering major format changes for its flagship club competition the Champions League, including an expansion from 32 to 36 teams, according to reports in UK newspapers.

The changes under consideration involve two models, both with 36 teams, and both involving clubs playing 10 group stage matches, an increase on the current six matches, according to The Telegraph.

The Daily Mail reported that, under one model, there would be six groups of six teams, with each team playing home and away fixtures against the others in their group. The top two teams in each group  and the four best third-placed teams would advance to the Round of 16.

Under the second model, the 36 teams would play 10 fixtures against different opponents, with fixtures decided by a seeding system so that opponents are evenly matched. The teams would be ranked in a single table and the top 16 would progress to the next round.

Also under consideration is the reintroduction of the single-country, one-leg knockout format that was used this year to decide the Champions League winner, in the season curtailed by the pandemic.

The Telegraph said discussions on the proposals were ongoing, and it could be next year before a decision was made on whether to go ahead with the changes.

The changes are aimed at granting the wishes of Europe’s major clubs to have more matches against each other.

Uefa labels European Premier League claims ‘boring’

Yesterday (Tuesday), the old threat of a breakaway ‘European Super League’ for the top clubs emerged again, with a report that Fifa and global financial services firm JP Morgan had been involved in talks about creating a ‘European Premier League’, backed by a $6bn (€5.07bn/£4.63bn) investment.

It is claimed that over a dozen sides from England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain are in negotiations about joining the league of between 16 and 18 teams featuring home and away fixtures followed by a knockout format. Proceeds to be provided by financial institutions would be repayable from future broadcast rights income generated by the tournament, one football executive told Sky News.

In response to the latest apparent revival of a European league project, Uefa said: “The Uefa president [Aleksander Čeferin] has made it clear on many occasions that Uefa strongly opposes a Super League.

“The principles of solidarity, of promotion, relegation and open leagues are non-negotiable. It is what makes European football work and the Champions League the best sports competition in the world. Uefa and the clubs are committed to build on such strength not to destroy it to create a Super League of 10, 12, even 24 clubs, which would inevitably become boring.”

The Sky News report claims that Fifa has been involved in developing the new format and that a formal announcement on the plans could be made by the end of October, but that the list of participating clubs has yet to be defined and the plans “could still fall apart”.

In a statement to the Associated Press, Fifa said that it “does not wish to comment and participate in any speculation about topics which come up every now and then and, for which, institutional structures and regulatory frameworks are well in place at national, European and global level”.

Key Capital Partners, the Spanish financial services firm, and Florentino Pérez, the Real Madrid president, are said to have been among the driving forces behind the latest European project. Both have been involved in talks about similar ventures in the past, and were said to be behind plans two years ago, the details of which were reported by Der Spiegel magazine after documents were obtained by the Football Leaks website.

The potential Uefa format changes would also appease some of the wishes of Europe’s smaller leagues, by creating more qualification slots.

The changes also come amid reassessments of competition structures and business models across the football industry and wider sports industry, amid the economic crunch caused by the pandemic.

In England, a proposal by Manchester United and Liverpool to overhaul the Premier League and its relationship with lower leagues was rejected by clubs last week. Premier League teams plan to continue working on a different strategic plan for the future of the game in the country.