Uefa puts competition reform plans to league officials

Uefa president Aleksander Čeferin has maintained that reports regarding the future make-up of European football’s elite club competitions remain speculative after the latest round of meetings concerning the likes of the Champions League.

European football’s governing body has this week held meetings with European Leagues, the association of the continent’s professional football leagues, about the future direction of the Champions League and other club competitions.

The ongoing reform talks with European football stakeholders come amid one of the most thrilling Champions League seasons in recent history, culminating in this week’s dramatic semi-finals which saw English Premier League pair Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur progress to the final in Madrid.

European Leagues this week said that its members, and the vast majority of professional clubs in Europe, are not against change as such, but have “significant concerns” about proposals that would alter the structures and/or competitiveness of their respective national leagues and competitions.

The European Club Association (ECA) last month called for a special general assembly on June 6-7, which will focus on the evolution of Uefa competitions beyond 2024, including the potential for promotion and relegation.

The shape of Uefa’s competitions is now determined for 2021-24, including the refining of the Europa League from 48 to 32 teams and the addition of a third competition to expand the number of participating teams. European Leagues president Lars-Christer Olsson yesterday (Wednesday) confirmed that promotion and relegation was on the agenda, but declined to give further details ahead of a Uefa meeting with national federations on May 17.

Olsson said, according to the Associated Press news agency: “There are ideas about promotion and relegation. It’s a different system to the one we have today. The total picture is that there would be more clubs involved.”

Olsson went on to suggest that European League’s could put forward a rival proposal at an October assembly in London. “This is the first meeting of several,” he added.

The leagues are keen to ensure entry to the Champions League is driven by the similar system currently employed – through performance in national competitions and winning a Uefa competition.

The clubs are looking towards a revamped format that could see four groups of eight teams apiece, the top five in each guaranteeing their places in the next season’s event. Bigger groups would also mean more matches in a new-look Champions League.

Following yesterday’s meeting between the Uefa Executive Committee and representatives of the European Leagues, Čeferin said in a statement: “What is important to remember is that, despite a lot of talk in the media, no decisions have been made. At the moment we have only ideas and opinions.

“It is also important to recognise that Uefa is the only body that has responsibility to the game across Europe. Uefa competitions are the only source of redistribution between big and small countries in a landscape that is polarising, with solidarity payments of €240m ($268.5m) from the Champions League being made to clubs right across our 55 member associations. We will use this process to design our competitions to protect and develop European football.

“Other organisations have very different constituencies and interests to protect. Our aim is to find a solution that reflects the changes in the game, preserves the position of Uefa’s competitions as the most attractive and exciting in the world, while providing significant solidarity funding across European football.

“We will not be deflected from that task and we remain committed to continue dialogue with our stakeholders, the next meeting of which will be with our national associations next week.”