Leagues tell UEFA to think again over Champions League reform

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MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – Europe’s top leagues, including the Premier League, want UEFA to think again about their proposed changes to the Champions League, amidst concerns over congestion from the 100 extra matches.

The European Leagues body, which represents the domestic championships, wants to see changes to the proposals to ensure greater access to clubs from smaller leagues and has expressed concern over the increased number of games.

UEFA’s plans will see the group stage transformed into a ‘single table’ format instead of the current eight groups of four teams and with 36 teams rather than 32 involved.

The changes mean there would be 225 matches in the competition compared to 125 now.

Two of those extra slots are earmarked for the highest ranked teams in UEFA’s ‘coefficient’ rankings based on the past five years of performances, opening the likelihood of the top leagues having more than their current four slots.

“We think it is too much,” Jaco Swart, CEO of European Leagues told the Financial Times’ Business of Football summit on Wednesday.

“It is not only the number of matches, but the number of match days… it could lead to a shift in value from domestic competition to international competition,” he added.

The 20 Premier League clubs held an online meeting on Wednesday to discuss UEFA’s plans and agreed to ask UEFA to come up with a different system for the extra slots.

Swart said the extra places should be used to spread participation across the continent.

“We strongly believe the four additional places should give more room to domestic champions and not that the new clubs should come from the biggest associations (leagues) who already have a number of fixed positions in the Champions League,” he said.

The leagues also want to see the financial distribution system agreed on along with the format and not after the system has been given the green light.

There is particular concern from Premier League clubs that the expanded format will see games also played in January which has previously been left free for domestic competition only.

But the chief executive of the European Club Association, which represents the continent’s major clubs, was more positive about the plans.

Charlie Marshall said that the system would create a “strong product”.

“We have less alarm bells ringing around this proposal, there is a reasonable amount of hysteria and reactionism going on,” he said.

“We feel more European matches are important in the development of football, we absolutely feel there is more room to play more European games and… we would like to see the reshaping happen that can enable that,” he said.

(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

Photo A view of the trophy prior to the UEFA Champions League final between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool FC at Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid, Spain, 01 June 2019. EPA-EFE/JUANJO MARTIN

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