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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Champions League proposal could end group stage

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Europe’s leading leagues will hold an online meeting on Friday to discuss UEFA’s plans to change the Champions League format, with a major reshaping of the group stage on the agenda.

UEFA has been consulting with clubs and leagues about how to liven up the group stage and a switch to a new format with more games is the preferred option of European soccer’s governing body.

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The discussions have focused on scrapping the round-robin stage, where there are currently eight groups of four clubs with each team playing three opponents at home and away.

That format often results in matches with the top teams qualifying with a game or two to spare.

UEFA is considering replacing it with a format in which the 32 clubs would play 10 different opponents and qualification would come from one league table.

That would allow for more games and — UEFA hopes — more games that matter, generating higher revenues and greater fan interest.

The plan, dubbed the “Swiss model,” has yet to meet any major resistance and was backed by European Club Association chief Andrea Agnelli, the president of Juventus, although he indicated he may push for a broader expansion.

“I think it is a great system because it is scalable. The number of games you play in the early stages can be a non pre-determined number of games,” he said last week.

The leagues will be keen to ensure that any expansion of European club competitions does not encroach on domestic football and have been clear they will not accept weekend Champions League fixtures.

The European Leagues organisation also wants to see an increase in “solidarity payments” from European competition revenue to domestic football and a guarantee that qualification to competitions will continue to be based on domestic league position.

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While there appears to be a broad consensus about changes to the format of the tournament, UEFA is likely to face some tricky negotiations about the financial distribution mechanism from their competitions, sources say.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by WCT staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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