FA urges UEFA to make changes to new-look Champions League

Jamie Gardner, PA Chief Sports Reporter

The Football Association has written to UEFA urging it to make changes to its proposals for a new-look Champions League.

European Leagues’ outgoing president Lars-Christer Olsson revealed on Friday that the FA was one of 10 national associations who supported changes to the plans, and said a final decision on the formats for 2024 onwards would be taken at a UEFA executive committee meeting next Wednesday.

The FA’s letter is understood to have raised concerns over the impact on the domestic calendar, with the additional 100 games proposed likely to create an existential threat to the Carabao Cup.

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The Premier League’s concerns are also understood to be centred on the calendar impact, as well as qualification.

UEFA’s ‘Horizon 2024’ proposal would see two clubs from across the continent qualifying based on historical co-efficient, so long as they had done enough domestically to qualify for one of its other competitions – the Europa League or the Europa Conference League.

From a Premier League perspective that could create a situation where a team finishing seventh might ‘leapfrog’ teams in fifth and sixth and qualify for a more lucrative competition, simply based on past European performance.

The league is understood to want access to be decided on domestic performance only.

The UEFA proposal would mean an extra 100 matches, something the Premier League is understood to be concerned by. It is especially determined that January should be kept free of European competition matches, as it always has been in the past.

European Leagues' outgoing president Lars-Christer Olsson admits the continent's big clubs are closer to UEFA than the leagues
European Leagues’ outgoing president Lars-Christer Olsson admits the continent’s big clubs are closer to UEFA than the leagues (PA)

Olsson confirmed that UEFA’s ExCo would take a decision on format first, and then decide on financial matters later.

Given European Leagues had said as recently as March 10 that it wanted the financial discussions to run in parallel with the format talks, it may be an indication that its other suggested changes – which effectively represent the views of more than 30 domestic leagues, 300 clubs and fans’ groups – are going to be ignored by UEFA next week.

“UEFA is the competition organiser. The decision in the UEFA bodies is the final decision,” Olsson said.

“We are trying to influence the decisions before they are made, that’s it.”

UEFA is proposing to ditch the 32-team group stage featuring eight groups of four, and replace it with one 36-team league.

Each team would play 10 matches on a seeded basis under the so-called ‘Swiss system’. European Leagues likes the system, but believes there should be two less matches per side.

It also argues that no more than five teams from a single country should be able to enter the competition, as is the case now.

Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish said at the European Leagues’ Club Advisory Platform on March 10 that UEFA’s plans would “devastate” English football and said they were a “slow creep” towards a European Super League.

Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish is unimpressed by UEFA's plans
Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish is unimpressed by UEFA’s plans (PA)

Olsson admitted Europe’s biggest clubs were closer to UEFA than the leagues.

“We have seen that in different decisions in the last decade and that is still the case,” he said.

“UEFA is a competition organiser and a governing body. They have to make their judgement and decide how they see the best way of organising their own competitions.

“So far we have to be honest and say the clubs have had more influence than we have had over recent developments. That might change over the future, but I am not so sure it will have an effect for the decisions now.”

Andrea Agnelli, the chairman of the European Club Association which is widely regarded as speaking on behalf of the continent’s top clubs, has described the UEFA proposal as “ideal”.

Olsson issued a warning to UEFA that more matches did not necessarily translate into greater interest, pointing out that the introduction of a second group phase in the Champions League at the start of the 21st century was “a total disaster” which was quickly scrapped.