On the occasion of the executive committee and the annual Congress of UEFA on Tuesday and Wednesday, the European body must ratify new rules for the future formula of the Champions League.
UEFA meets its Executive Committee on Tuesday and its Annual Congress on Wednesday in Vienna in the hope of finalizing the reform of the Champions League after 2024, supposed to entice broadcasters with four additional clubs and 100 additional matches.
The timing may surprise, as the breathtaking semi-finals that the C1 has just offered have recalled the success of the current formula, the dramaturgy of which is essentially based on the encounters-cleavers. But the European body intends to overcome criticism as quickly as possible on the overhaul of its queen competition presented in the spring of 2021, the most radical for twenty years, although it was eclipsed at the time by the storm of the Super League, this short-lived private competition project launched by several rebellious clubs.
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From 32 to 36 clubs in the running
If the official agenda of the Executive Committee on Tuesday (1 p.m.-4 p.m.) does not announce a decision on the future C1, it is because it is not yet “100% guaranteed”, even if the UEFA hopes to achieve this week on the sidelines of its Annual Congress (10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Wednesday), indicates a source familiar with the matter. Two points are acquired: the passage from 32 to 36 clubs in 2024-2025, as well as the replacement of the eight pools of four clubs by a mini-championship inspired by chess tournaments, within a single table, just like in Europa League and Europa League Conference.
By extending this first phase, the objective is to satisfy both the broadcasters, with 225 matches in total instead of 125 today, the clubs, assured of higher ticketing income – even in the event of early elimination – , and viewers looking for prestigious posters. But two aspects were immediately divided, in European football with an already saturated calendar and precarious economic balances. First the number of “days” of the mini-championship, initially set at ten against ten different opponents, more than the six group matches (three round-trip confrontations) in the current formula.
Last Friday, the European Leagues association, bringing together 30 professional leagues on the continent, called for a limitation to eight games, so as not to encroach a little more on the space left to the championships. A number of big teams are also opposed to this interminable initial phase, even if their representative at the head of the European Club Association (ECA), Nasser Al-Khelaïfi, is “in full conflict of interest between his role as president of PSG and that of the boss of the beIN channel”, which broadcasts certain C1 matches in France, observes a familiar with the authorities.
Meritocracy or Draft
Another controversial point: the allocation of two of the four additional tickets for the benefit of the “UEFA coefficient”, that is to say past European results, or a chance offered to the leaders to make up for a missed season. The big clubs are this time rather favorable to this repechage but not European Leagues, for which all the participants must qualify via the national championships, a principle so fundamental to European football that it had been brandished against the promoters of the Super League, project which initially provided for automatically qualified “founding members”.
Towards a Final 4?
“European Leagues is firmly opposed to the introduction of a system of places linked to a so-called European coefficient of performance, which would constitute an unjustified second chance for (the) big clubs”, hammered the National Leagues again on Friday. The overhaul could also include the idea, put forward last year by UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin, of semi-finals and finals organized in the same city in a “Final 4” format. At the beginning of 2022, the TV rights for European club competitions were awarded for five billion euros a year over the period 2024-2027, a leap of more than 50% compared to the TV rights for 2018-2019, linked to this development project. enlargement of the C1.