In a move perceived as taking the wind off the sail of European Super League (ESL) protagonists, UEFA have carried out a major shake-up of the current format of the Champions League.
The move is coming on the heels of the announcement by the 12 big clubs to sign up for the new elitist ESL, which analysts predicted was set to rival the Champions League.
According to a statement from Uefa governing body, the Champions League will now feature 36 teams, as against the current 32, with each team playing a minimum of ten group stage games against ten different opponents. This new format has been dubbed the ‘Swiss System’.
The Uefa governing body said in the statement: “The Uefa Executive Committee today approved a new format for its club competitions as of the 2024-25 season.
“The reforms come after an extensive consultation across the football family.
“[It] received unanimous backing from the ECA Board and the UEFA Club Competitions Committee (made of a majority of club representatives) last Friday.
“The changes made are designed to secure the positive future of European football at every level and meet the evolving needs of all its stakeholders.
“Unequivocally confirming joint commitment to the principle of open competition and sporting merit across the continent, the common purpose has also been to sustain domestic leagues.”
Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin gushed about the Champions League format changes – while simultaneously taking aim at the ‘dirty dozen’ who signed up to the ESL.
On the current competition’s changes, Ceferin said: “This new format supports the status and future of the domestic game throughout Europe as well.
“It retains the principle that domestic performance should be the key to qualification and reconfirms the principles of solidarity right through the game and of open competition.
“This evolved format will still keep alive the dream of any team in Europe to participate in the Champions League thanks to results obtained on the pitch and it will enable long-term viability, prosperity, and growth for everyone in European football, not just a tiny, self-selected cartel.
“Football is a social and cultural treasure, enriched with values, traditions and emotions shared across our continent.
“As the governing body and responsible stewards of the European game, it is Uefa’s role to safeguard this legacy while leading positive future development of football in Europe for national associations, leagues, clubs, players, and fans at every level.
“This is why we had an extensive consultation process over the last two years which led to the unanimous backing of our proposal and we are convinced that these reforms achieve those objectives.”
On which teams will grab the extra four places, Uefa explained: “Qualification will continue to be open and earned through a team’s performance in domestic competitions.
“One of the additional places will go to the club ranked third in the championship of the association in fifth position in the Uefa national association ranking.
“Another will be awarded to a domestic champion by extending from four to five the number of clubs qualifying via the so-called ‘Champions Path’.
“The final two places will go to the clubs with the highest club coefficient over the last five years that have not qualified for the Champions League group stage but have qualified either for the Champions League qualification phase, the Europa League or the Europa Conference League.”
The Sun (UK)