UEFA head for Vienna to set seal on Champions League revamp

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May 9 – This week could promise to become a landmark moment for European football with UEFA’s executive committee set to ratify changes to the Champions League format. 

Last year’s Super League rebellion may have collapsed within 48 hours following a storm of protest, but the reforms that UEFA will green light later this week will reshape the Champions League and perhaps even introduce a light version of the Super League, with extra Champions League spots going to “coefficient places” or mid-tier leagues.

The European Club Association (ECA) has maintained that two of the four new places should go to the highest-ranking coefficients, sparking widespread criticism in some quarters. This backdoor route to qualification is seen as benefitting the big clubs and institutionalising sporting and financial inequality.

UEFA last year said that the Champions League will have a ‘Swiss system’ with eight or ten group match weeks and fixtures depending on seedings in order to create more ‘meaningful’ games. In a scenario of ten match weeks, 100 Champions League games will be added to the competition, with UEFA projecting a bonanza from TV rights income.

But that scenario is not welcomed everywhere. “An increase of more than 50% of games will hurt the vast majority of clubs and benefit very few,” said European Leagues chairman Claus Thomsen last month. “We need to have a lower number of rounds.” The new format would begin in 2024.

It is questionable how much influence European Leagues and other stakeholders have to minimize some of the reforms that go against their interests. While UEFA clearly opposed the launch of the Super League, the new Champions League competition format is a clear sign that the governing body has been ceding terrain to the big clubs, who are increasingly dictating the direction European football is taking.

It won’t be any different on Tuesday at UEFA’s executive committee and the Congress a day later in Vienna, unless UEFA boss Aleksander Ceferin, who will no doubt highlight UEFA’s riches and primacy in the global game, pulls a rabbit out of his hat.

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