UEFA set to approve new Champions League format next week


GENEVA — UEFA is set to approve a new 36-team format for the Champions League at an executive committee meeting on Monday but delay decisions on control of the finances.

The top item on an agenda published Friday for the meeting in Montreux, Switzerland, is the format of UEFA club competitions taking effect in the 2024-25 season.

Broad agreement on the key takeaway — adding four teams to the Champions League, each playing 10 games instead of six in a single standings table — has been in place with UEFA and Europe’s top clubs and leagues.

A controversial change is giving two of the four new places, worth tens of millions of euros (dollars), to clubs which did not qualify on merit but are ranked highly by UEFA on historical record. This season, such a proposal could have been a safety net for Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund.

However, an expected decision on March 31 stalled when UEFA did not accept last-minute demands pushed by some wealthy clubs for control of commercial strategy and distributing billions of euros from broadcasting and sponsorship deals. UEFA offered a shared venture and keeping control of sporting decisions.

UEFA signaled progress Friday on formats but not finances after a fresh round of meetings by the European Club Association board and its own committee overseeing club competitions.

Monday’s expected decision on formats comes more than two years after a first ECA-backed proposal favoring storied clubs was dropped amid strong opposition from the 30-nation European League group and many mid-ranking clubs.

An elite group of clubs has long asked UEFA for more guaranteed games in the Champions League, and to play each other more often before the knockout rounds.

The new format will see teams play 10 different opponents in a schedule weighted by seeding, instead of just three opponents in a traditional round-robin group.

A backdrop for the talks was steady leaks of reports saying that clubs including Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United were working with financiers on a breakaway league controlled by clubs.

The new formats proposal sees the second-tier Europa League expanded to eight rounds in the 32-team single standings — a variation of the Swiss model used in chess tournaments.

The third-tier Europa Conference League, which launches next season, should have six rounds also in the 32-team standings feeding into playoffs and a last-16 knockout bracket.

UEFA said Friday its executive committee also plans to decide on a distribution model for allocating prize money in all three competitions for the three seasons from 2021 through 2024.

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