UEFA will finally water down controversial proposals for Champions League legacy spots on Tuesday after the club’s brokers moved closer to agreeing a last-minute compromise plan. Amid warnings from fans of another Super League via the backdoor, club officials were close to scaling back plans for new locations based on historic five-year performances.
Instead, the most likely trade-off appears to be new places awarded to “more recent sporting merit” – potentially less than three years old in the Europe-wide coefficient rankings. The Premier League was one of the competitions fiercely opposed to coefficient places. As a result, at least two new alternatives were discussed by the European Club Association (ECA) during an ECA board meeting in Madrid on Monday. The debate then continued as club leaders gathered for dinner.
The ECA said in a statement: “While these important proposals are close to a final agreement to be approved by the UEFA Executive Committee, the ECA is committed to working with UEFA to conclude the best possible results for European club football.”
Under the original plan, a Premier League club could still secure a place to finish fifth or win the FA Cup if their coefficient placed them high enough over the previous five years. That arrangement is now dead, and not even Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, who would have benefited from it, have pushed it in recent weeks. Instead, several groups of Premier League fans put their names to an open letter to ECA clubs on Monday, saying the increased number of fixtures would lead to ‘boring’ and ‘no-stakes’ matches and would place increased demands on supporters during a live crisis cost.
The letter described the coefficient proposal as “fundamentally unfair” and “anti-competitive.” “They represent a clear attempt to reward underperforming elite clubs at the expense of others and to challenge the rhetoric of ECA clubs around the Super League,” the letter added.
He concluded: “Ultimately, your decision will shape the game for a generation, impacting every league, club, player and fan in Europe. So we expect you to focus your attention on the serious issues at hand, not on the youthful musings of extended halftime shows, week-long finals, and similar Super Bowl knockoffs. Furthermore, we call on you to listen to the millions of match fans across the continent by abandoning these reforms and acting in the best interest of all of European football. Now is the time to do it. »
Under the new format, the Champions League will grow from 32 to 36 teams under a “Swiss model”, in which all teams compete in a single league. Teams will play eight or ten games against opponents of different ranks to decide which ones will advance to the Round of 16.
Telegraph Sport predicted last week that the coefficient proposals needed to be reconsidered, and a source close to the ECA said he was confident there would be a unanimous position by the time UEFA’s executive committee met in Vienna, Austria, Tuesday afternoon. The late talks and potential compromises, however, reduce the likelihood that Aleksander Čeferin, the chairman of the governing body, will be able to approve the post-2024 reforms this week.