February 8, 2021 5:12:40 pm
The latest Champions League reform plan is faring better than a failed club-driven proposal two years ago, though Europe’s top leagues said they have concerns after discussing it on Friday.
UEFA-led talks on approving changes for the 2024-25 season are steering away from a traditional group stage toward a single league table that gives all 36 teams 10 games each in a variation of the ‘Swiss System’ format created in chess tournaments.
That format promises to raise club prize money by giving UEFA 180 group-stage games to sell to broadcasters instead of the current 96.
It also needs to find four extra midweek slots in an already busy program for domestic leagues.
“The European Leagues have raised strong concerns about more matchdays of such a flexible system in an already very congested calendar,” the 30-nation group said after an online meeting.
Entry to the Champions League from domestic success is also key for the leagues, who want title winners in mid-ranking countries to get their chance on the biggest stage.
The UEFA proposal also suggests some of the extra four entries when the current 32-team format is expanded could go to teams based on their historic record in European competitions.
Rewarding teams based on their UEFA ranking would be a safety net for storied members of the influential European Club Association who do not qualify on merit.
European Leagues said its members “also questioned the possible impact of access (to UEFA competitions) as well as commercial components on the sporting and financial balance of domestic leagues.”
The leagues want more UEFA prize money — this season is worth almost 2 billion euros ($2.3 billion) to the 32 Champions League teams — directed toward closing the wealth gap between clubs in European soccer.
Still, there is a more solid base for progress than the previous negotiations which collapsed 18 months ago.
“The vision based on the so-called ‘Swiss Model’ is an improvement compared to the more radical proposals that emerged in 2019,” the leagues said.
UEFA will brief its 55 member federations on Tuesday on the competitions proposal, which also affects the Europa League and the third-tier Europa Conference League that starts next season.
Agreement on the 2024-25 proposals are likely before UEFA’s annual congress of members on April 20, to be held in Montreux, Switzerland.
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