Report: UEFA Champions League teams could play four more matches from 2024

Report: UEFA Champions League teams could play four more matches from 2024
UEFA, the governing body for soccer in Europe, and the European Club Association (ECA) are ‘close to an agreement’ to add four more rounds of fixtures to the Champions League each season, according to the Times.

The UK newspaper reports that UEFA and the ECA, which represents the interests of European soccer clubs, expect the expansion of European club soccer’s premier competition will take place from 2024.

The Times adds that the new format for the tournament has not yet been finalised, but notes that possibilities include restructuring the group stage or adding an additional round-robin phase.

Other formats that have reportedly been considered include having eight groups of six teams instead of four in the group stage, or even a second group phase at a later stage in the competition, which could mean eight quarter-finalists being split into two groups, with the top two progressing to the semi-finals.

The proposed changes are less drastic than those initially put forward by the ECA, which had suggested expanding the competition to include ten extra matches per season.

The report comes over a year after it first emerged that Europe’s leading soccer clubs had held secret talks over a breakaway European Super League, which has since seen UEFA and the ECA explore ways to increase Champions League revenues in order to appease the competition’s elite teams.

Most recently it was reported by the Financial Times (FT) that private equity firm CVC Capital Partners, which has invested heavily in rugby union over the past 12 months, had been approached by Spanish soccer giants Real Madrid about the creation of a global club tournament.

The Times story coincides with the release of UEFA’s annual European Club Footballing Landscape report, which shows a widening financial gap between the elite clubs and the rest.

The study, which assessed the 2017/18 financial reports from all 712 clubs in the top leagues of UEFA’s member countries, found that the combined €5.4 billion (US$6 billion) generated by the 20 teams in England’s Premier League was more money than the 617 clubs in all 50 European leagues below the top four.

Overall, Europe’s ‘big five’ leagues – the Premier League, La Liga, the Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1 – accounted for a record 75 per cent of the total €21 billion (US$23.3 billion) revenue generated by the 712 clubs included in the study.

UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin said: “The report highlights a number of threats to continued European football stability and success. These include the risks of globalisation-fuelled revenue polarisation, of a fragmenting media landscape and of cases of overdependence on transfer activity revenue.

“The report also shows that European club football is strong, united and resilient, and I am certain that European football can and will overcome these challenges and others just as successfully as we dealt with the threat of spiralling losses in the recent past.”

The report also details growing attendances, television income and commercial revenues across all leagues, noting that 80 per cent of clubs reported a major investment in training facilities over the last five years.

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