KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: The main European leagues are not happy, to say the least, about the latest test-the-water proposals emanating from European federation about UEFA the shape of the Champions League beyond 2024.
Ultimately no-one will be entirely content with the compromise which eventually emerges to keep the millions rolling in to keep UEFA in profit and rolling out in distribution to Europe’s top clubs.
The challenge is to find a formula which pushes threatening talk of a super league back down the line for another three years.
UEFA is floating the idea of replacing the group stage (eight of four clubs with each team playing three opponents at home and away) with a format in which the 32 clubs would play 10 different opponents.
This should create more matches to generate higher income and rekindle interest among fans bored with the predictability of the group stage.
Andrea Agnelli, head of the European Club Association and president of Juventus, has offered a cautious welcome to the idea though many of the ECA’s middle and lower-ranking clubs want to see the cash distribution model before offering an opinion.
The Leagues, for their part, will jealously guard against any expansion of European competition which might encroach on domestic football.
In detail, the UEFA plan is to expand the current competition from 32 to 36 teams and replace the traditional group stage with a single league in which each participant would play 10 games instead of six as now.
UEFA’s project, which will be presented to its 55 member associations on Tuesday, consists of a single group of 36 teams and an overall ranking. Each participant will play a total of 10 games in this first phase, as they will face their rivals only once.
The schedule will be based on a seeded system that will ensure that each team faces roughly the same level of “difficult” and “easier” matches.
The inclusion of the playoff is designed to keep the interest in the first phase alive for as long as possible, but it could result in a team that finishes 24th in the only group of 36 reaching the knockout stages.
As for how the four additional places will be distributed from the current 32 to the 36 proposed by UEFA, the less powerful leagues as well as their federations fear that they will finally be, as they have been up to now, for the traditionally more important countries from the point of view football.