UEFA is to hold talks over proposals that would see the Champions League group stage transformed to guarantee 10 matches for each side in the competition, according to a report on Tuesday.
Champions League reform is expected from 2024 onwards as European football’s governing body aims to ward off the threat of a breakaway super league from the continent’s biggest clubs.
British newspaper The Times reported that a “Swiss system” that would see all sides in the competition compete in one league and play 10 different opponents, selected by a draw, is now UEFA’s favoured model for reform. The system is designed to have fewer meaningless group matches and more games between the continent’s biggest clubs.
After the 10 games, the top 16 clubs in the standings would progress to the knockout rounds. The team that finished top of the league standings would play the club in 16th, second would play 15th and so on in a system similar to that used by the NBA playoffs.
The teams finishing 17th-24th would drop into the Europa League knockout rounds. Currently, the 32-team group stage is divided into eight groups of four with the top two in each section progressing to the last 16 and third-place dropping into the Europa League.
Previous proposals for four groups of eight teams to guarantee 14 matches for each club were rejected. Lars-Christer Olsson, chairman of the European Leagues association which covers 29 nations, said the new proposals had a “more realistic” chance of finding consensus.
“The new proposals are much more realistic than the one in 2019 but what is important is protecting the access list to all the European competitions and ensuring the gap in financial distribution is not widened between the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League,” Olsson told The Times.
However, the addition of four more Champions League matches a season will cause further concerns over player welfare in a congested calendar. There has been a marked rise in injuries across the major European leagues so far this season as matches are crammed in to make up for lost time last season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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