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Champions League: Premier League could have up to seven clubs in competition as part of overhaul | Football News

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The Champions League could regularly host five English clubs from 2024 – and up to seven in exceptional circumstances – after a major overhaul of the competition was agreed on Tuesday.

More than a year of intense debate over the best way forward for Europe’s premier club competition after the collapse of the Super League has come to an end, with UEFA deciding to award two places in a new expanded league system to 36 teams to clubs from both countries. who collectively performed better in European club competitions the previous season.

England would have gained an extra place in four of the last five seasons if this system had been used.

In theory, seven English teams could qualify in a single season under this new model – the top four in the Premier League, a team ranked fifth via the national coefficient and the winners of the Champions League and Europa League, if they were all different. clubs.

A senior UEFA official described this scenario as “as likely as a meteorite hitting this room”, but it is a possibility nonetheless.

UEFA has dropped a novel proposal to award places based on an individual club’s performance in Europe over the past five seasons, which critics say has created a safety net for big clubs who have performed poorly domestically and had echoes of the Super League.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin hailed the deal as proof that European football is “more united than ever”, but questions remain about how open the new competition will be.

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Aleksander Ceferin says the changes show UEFA’s commitment to ‘open competition’

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The current coefficient scoring system awards bonus points for qualifying from the Champions League group stage, which means countries that already have four places have an advantage from the start. Senior UEFA sources have said there are no plans to review this system.

Domestic leagues will also have questions about the impact of these plans on their competitions, both in terms of arguably curtailing interest by widening the Champions League race and more pragmatic concerns over match scheduling .

Last year, UEFA’s executive committee approved an increase in the number of matches from six in the current format to 10, but that number was reduced to eight under pressure from domestic leagues and fan groups.

Teams will face eight different opponents, playing four home games and four away games on a seeded basis in the new 36-team league.

But even this more moderate increase still means Champions League matches in January for the first time, a period traditionally reserved for domestic football in England. A senior Premier League source said conversations around the new format were “not over yet”.

UEFA has ruled out the reported ‘Week of Football’ concept, saying it will stick to the home-and-away semi-finals in its new plan, on the heels of the classic second leg clash between Real Madrid and Manchester City at the Bernabéu.

Bernardo Silva and Luka Modric in action during the Champions League semi-final between Manchester City and Real Madrid at the Bernabeu
Picture:
Bernardo Silva and Luka Modric in action during the Champions League semi-final between Manchester City and Real Madrid at the Bernabeu

Clubs from the same country will be able to meet earlier in the new format – they can now play each other in the new play-off round which will decide the last eight places in the last 16, rather than the quarter-finals currently.

In all, the new format means 64 more games, going from the current 125 to 189.

The country coefficient proposal was submitted to the European Club Association board in Madrid on Monday, and early indications were that it would not be possible to make a final decision in Vienna.

However, progress was made on Tuesday morning, with the crucial meeting of UEFA’s club competitions committee being pushed back an hour to allow time for further negotiations.

Ceferin added: “UEFA has made it clear today that we are fully committed to respecting the fundamental values ​​of sport and upholding the key principle of open competitions, with qualification based on sporting merit, fully in line with the values and solidarity European sport.

“Today’s decisions conclude an extensive consultation process during which we have listened to the ideas of supporters, players, coaches, national associations, clubs and leagues to name but a few. with the aim of finding the best solution for the development and success of European football, both at national level and on the international club scene.

“We are confident that the chosen format strikes the right balance and will improve the competitive balance and generate strong revenue which can be distributed to clubs, leagues and grassroots football across our continent while increasing the appeal and the popularity of our interclub competitions.”

Revenue from new competitions is set to rise by nearly 40%, but discussions over the financial distribution model for the 2024-27 cycle – and how much to support clubs outside European competition – will now begin in earnest.

The two additional extra places in the group stage will go to a third club from the fifth-placed association – currently France – and another domestic league winner qualifying via the “champions route”.

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