Clubs 'propose Champions League of up to 48 teams' to resolve restructuring clash
A proposal to expand the Uefa Champions League from 32 to 40 or 48 teams is being put forward as a compromise solution to break an impasse over the restructuring of European soccer’s top clubs competition in 2024, it has been reported.
The plan will be presented at a meeting between Uefa and Europe’s top clubs and leagues in Nyon, Switzerland on 11 September, according to the UK’s Times newspaper.
The leaders of the European Club Association are thought to favour a switch from the current format of eights groups of four teams to four groups of eight teams, with 24 of the 32 teams qualifying automatically rather than through their domestic leagues as at present, and an element of promotion and relegation.
However, this largely ‘closed’ competition model, driven by ECA and Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli, has run into significant opposition from Europe’s top national leagues, which have concerns over the impact on their calendars and competitive balance.
It is understood that the dispute has prompted a group of medium-sized clubs to propose alternative formats, including eight groups of five, in which two teams would progress to the knockout stages, or even eight groups of six.
These would satisfy the demand for additional Champions League fixtures without there being as many as 14 group games per team, as envisaged in the existing ECA vision.
Earlier this week, 15 of the 20 clubs in Italy’s Serie A voted against the ECA plan, with Juventus the only outfit in favour (four others abstained).
England’s Premier League, Spain’s LaLiga, Germany’s Bundesliga, France’s Ligue 1 and the European Leagues body had already declared their opposition to the proposed restructuring.
Speaking at last week’s ECA general assembly in Malta, Agnelli accused the top national leagues of “protectionism,” adding that they needed to consider the interests of others.
However, many of the clubs represented at the meeting also expressed reservations over the mooted Champions League revamp, with some calling for a return to the drawing board.
Aleksander Ceferin, the president of Uefa, has sought to play down talk of a European ‘super league’, saying that no decisions on the future structure of the Champions League have been made, and that consultations with stakeholders, including federations, leagues and clubs, will continue.