Uefa’s plan for a ‘Swiss-style’ Champions League from 2024 has received cautious support from the European Leagues group.
But among the issues still causing concern is fixture congestion and how to allocate two of the extra four slots in the expanded tournament.
A possible post-Christmas play-off to get down to the final 16 clubs is also a matter of contention.
The Europa League and new Conference League’s composition is another issue.
Uefa hopes to be able to confirm the new structure by its 20 April executive committee meeting.
The new format would involve 36 clubs instead of 32, in what is effectively one big league, but playing only 10 matches.
Who teams play would be determined by their ranking, with the league stage replacing the current group phase.
It is Uefa’s attempt to head off the threat of a European Super League, discussions around which BBC Sport understands are still continuing, by providing more games between big clubs.
However, creating four additional pre-Christmas slots for matches will not be easy, especially in England where the calendar is already at breaking point.
“The so-called ‘Swiss Model’ is an improvement compared to the more radical proposals that emerged in 2019,” said the European Leagues Group in a statement.
But the body, which represents 37 professional football leagues and associations of clubs from 30 countries, also “raised strong concerns about more matchdays… in an already very congested calendar”.
It also questioned “the possible impact of access as well as commercial components on the sporting and financial balance of domestic leagues”.
The post-2024 grand plan
- A 36-team Champions League.
- There would be 32 places allocated as at present (26 automatic qualifiers, six qualifiers, including four from the Champions Path).
- An additional four places to include a third automatic place to the fifth-ranked Uefa country and an additional qualifier through the Champions Path, with two places decided on co-efficient, the teams must have qualified for one of the other Uefa competitions to access this.
- Ten matches, played before Christmas. Every team plays a similar range of opponents of differing strengths with final places decided by an overall league table.
- Potentially, a play-off round featuring teams finishing from ninth to 24th.
- Two-legged knock-out matches from the last 16 onwards.
- Europa League and Conference League potentially remaining in the usual format of four-team groups to reduce overall costs.
It is understood the Premier League as a whole is unimpressed by the concept, specifically because of the strain it will put on the domestic calendar.
Unless Fifa changes the current structure of international football, clashes between competitions, such as the one that ended up with Tottenham playing an EFL Cup tie and a Europa League qualifier in the same week at the end of September are inevitable.
There are also likely to be disagreements over the two ‘wild cards’ which appear designed to be a safety net for the biggest clubs in Europe should they fail to qualify through their domestic league placings.
European Super League backdrop
Uefa competition reform is being framed against ongoing discussions about a 20-team European Super League.
Despite last month’s threat by world governing body Fifa to ban all players who took part in such a competition from appearing in a World Cup, it is understood the concept is still being discussed at senior level at many of Europe’s major clubs.
On Monday, La Liga president Javier Tebas challenged Fifa counterpart Gianni Infantino to clarify his involvement in ESL discussions and say whether the name that appears as the code W01 in documents distributed by those involved in the Super League plan actually refers to the Fifa chief.
Infantino is yet to respond to Tebas’ comments.
There has been speculation that the clubs who are likely participants in a European Super League – 16 of which would go straight into the competition – want to assess Uefa’s model before deciding whether to proceed with its plan or not.
— to www.bbc.co.uk