European Super League Implications

United against 'disgraceful' plan

Uefa rebukes breakaway teams as it confirms Champions League revamp will start from 2024

MONTREUX (Switzerland) • Uefa yesterday confirmed that a new format for the Champions League will be introduced from 2024 with the number of clubs in the group stage increasing from 32 to 36, in response to the bombshell announcement that 12 major clubs plan to break away and start a rival Super League.

The new format - which will see all 36 clubs brought together into one pool instead of the current system of four-team groups - was approved at an executive committee meeting of European football's governing body in Switzerland.

No announcement was made about how the four extra teams would qualify other than that one place would go to the fifth-ranked league in Europe, which is currently France's Ligue 1.

The announcement came hours after news broke of a proposed breakaway Super League, which was met with an acid response from Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin.

"I cannot stress more strongly how everyone is united against this disgraceful, self-serving proposals, fuelled by greed above all else," the Slovenian said yesterday.

"We are all united against this nonsense of a project. Cynical plan, completely against what football should be. We cannot and will not allow that to change."

Uefa's new-look Champions League will follow the so-called "Swiss system", more commonly associated with chess, with clubs split into four pots of nine for the draw based on Uefa coefficients.

Teams will play against 10 different sides, with five games at home and five away.

At the end of this phase, the top eight sides will go through to the last 16, with the bottom 12 eliminated.

Meanwhile, the sides finishing between ninth and 24th position will play two-legged play-offs, with those between ninth and 16th drawn against a side finishing from 17th to 24th.

The winners of those ties will complete the last-16 line-up, with the losers dropping into the Europa League.

Separately, Uefa will announce the final decision over the host cities for this year's delayed Euro 2020 on Friday, with Munich, Bilbao and Dublin in danger of being dropped from the list if the trio cannot welcome spectators to stadiums.

Ceferin confirmed he has given more allowance for final discussions with the three cities, but hinted they "could be excluded" if local authorities cannot ensure the attendance of fans amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Uefa could take matches due to be played there and relocate them to other existing host cities, although the president of the Spanish Football Federation, Luis Rubiales, has said he will do "everything humanly possible" to ensure Spain keeps its four scheduled Euro games.

Postponed by a year due to the pandemic, Euro 2020 is set to start in Rome on June 11 and is set to be played at 12 different venues spread across the continent - a first for the tournament.

But it was a controversial arrangement even before the pandemic brought about widespread travel restrictions.

The Italian capital was only confirmed as a host city last Wednesday when local authorities confirmed spectators would be allowed in up to 25 per cent of the capacity of the 68,000-seat Olympic Stadium.

Rome, along with eight other cities - St Petersburg, Baku, Budapest, Amsterdam, Bucharest, Copenhagen, Glasgow and London - have been locked in as hosts, although the number of fans allowed into stadiums will vary from one venue to the other. One of Uefa's demands for Euro 2020 host cities is that they cannot stage closed-door games.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2021, with the headline 'United against 'disgraceful' plan'. Subscribe