Facing a pause caused by some leading European clubs seeking greater control over commercial rights, plans to significantly overhaul the Uefa Champions League are expected to be announced in April.
An announcement was expected at UEFA’s executive committee meeting on Wednesday, but the governing body said no official decision would be made until April 19.
The strong European Club Association (ECA) announced the setback in a statement released late on Tuesday.
Andrea Agnelli, who is also the manager of Juventus, is the ECA’s chairman said that it “unanimously agreed that it was not yet in a position to formally endorse key changes… for the period post 2024 in isolation”.
“If European football is to meet the challenges it currently faces,” the statement continued, “the foundations for ECA and UEFA’s future relationship also need to be given due consideration at the same time.”
UEFA Club Competitions (UCC), the subsidiary organization that advises UEFA on commercial issues, is under pressure from some leading clubs, according to sources close to the negotiations.
UEFA appoints half of UCC’s board of directors. The ECA appoints the other half.
Plans for the reformed edition of European football’s elite club competition, which is meant to ward off the possibility of a breakaway Super League, are now public knowledge.
The following is how things are expected to change:
One Massive Pool
The changes largely revolve around developing a new format for the group stage, which will replace the framework that has been in place since 2003.
The group stage starts with 32 clubs divided into eight groups of four teams, who play each other at home and away, with the top two teams in each group progressing to the last 16.
According to the plans, the number of teams in the group stage will be expanded to 36, with negotiations already underway on who will earn the additional berths.
According to the British newspaper The Times, two additional slots would be awarded to the clubs with the highest coefficient that did not qualify for domestic competitions but did qualify for the second-tier Europa League.
However, European Leagues, an organization that represents the interests of clubs and leagues in 30 countries, opposes assigning places based on historical merit, claiming that European competitions “should reflect the current state of domestic competition.”
France, which is ranked fifth in Europe but only has two guaranteed slots in the group stage, should be granted an additional position.
The community stage will be completely redesigned as part of the plans.
In a so-called “Swiss method,” which is more generally associated with chess, all teams will be grouped in one large pool and will each play 10 games.
Based on UEFA coefficients, clubs will be divided into four pots of nine for the draw. Teams will face ten different opponents, with five games at home and five games away.
After this point, the top eight teams will advance to the last 16, while the bottom 12 will be eliminated.
Meanwhile, teams finishing ninth through 24th will compete in two-legged play-offs, with those finishing ninth through 16th facing a team finishing 17th through 24th.
The winners of those matches will progress to the last 16, while the losers will be relegated to the Europa League.
The desire to play more games is at the core of the changes, as Agnelli reported earlier this year.
“It is our strong view that more European matches are welcome,” The ECA and Juventus president has been adamant.
That is something that this device unquestionably provides.
Each team will play ten group games instead of six, resulting in an overall increase in the number of matches, from 96 to 180 in the group stage.
The knockout stage will remain unchanged, although the inclusion of a play-off round at the conclusion of the group stage will increase the total number of matches in the competition from 125 to 225.
In comparison to the current 13 games, a team reaching the final would have to play at least 17 games.