KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: European football will have to wait for three weeks before hearing formal approval for the long-awaited and controversial new format for the Champions League.
The basic outline has been agreed today by the executive committee of European football federation UEFA after 18 months of wrangling among officials, clubs and leagues. But confirmation must wait until at least a further meeting on April 19.
By then, it is hoped, details of the cash shake-out from marketing and TV rights for the big clubs will have been thrashed out.
Money is, of course, at the root of the entire project with a new deal from 2024 all the more important after the dire financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Hence also the usual threatening talk of a super league which precedes every evolution of the Champions League system.
The latest proposals would see the traditional group phase scrapped but with the number of qualifying clubs expanded from 32 to 36, incuding two ‘wild card’ entries.
These slots would be handed to clubs with the highest UEFA points coefficient but who have not qualified for the competition through their league position.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin had always been confident that the European Club Association would come to the table as the clock ran down.
The power of the ECA was compromised by the split in members between the minority of ‘super clubs’ and the majority of middle and lower ranking outfits.
Everyone will be happy, however, to see each competing club guaranteed to play 10 matches against opponents varying in strength, with the results forming an overall league table.
Those in the highest eight positions will move on to the knockout phase, with those from ninth to 24th going into a play-off round.
This will require 19 match rounds, rather than the current 13, although as the current last-16 schedule has games spread across four weeks, only four additional midweeks may be required.
The new format will cause problem for the English game and in particular the League Cup as the additional fixtures will need the mid-week slots usually allocated to the secondary cup competition. UEFA also envisages staging matches in January.
** BOTH legs of the Champions League quarter final between Porto and Chelsea will be played in Seville