GENEVA (AP) — Facing pushback against an overhaul of the Champions League, UEFA will review plans as European leagues, more mid-ranking teams and fan groups try to limit changes that favor the wealthiest clubs.
UEFA told The Associated Press on Thursday its Club Competitions Committee will meet on May 10. The committee makes formal proposals for approval by the European soccer body’s executive committee, which will meet later that day in Vienna, Austria.
More than one year after UEFA agreed to sweeping format changes — during the 48 hours between the launch and collapse of the rebel Super League project — to club competitions starting in 2024, the delayed process of fine-tuning details seems more open.
Two signature proposals provoked widespread concern that European soccer could make it even tougher for most teams to compete if more money is steered to Champions League teams.
Guaranteeing teams 10 Champions League games instead of six and giving two of the four new entries in a 36-team league standings to storied clubs, based on their historical record if they do not qualify on merit, have looked locked in since last year.
Those “coefficient” places are worth tens of millions of dollars in UEFA prize money and are designed to reward an elite team having a poor season.
The controversial change has been supported by the European Club Association, both before some of its officials left for the Super League and since. But it rankles with clubs outside the elite, Eintracht Frankfurt CEO Axel Hellmann said this week.
Speaking ahead of Frankfurt’s semifinal games in the Europa League, Hellman said clubs were working together to “strengthen the interests of the middle class."
Currently, only one of the four extra places is earmarked for a domestic league champion. The other entry should go to the fifth-ranked national league, which is France.
Opponents of some ECA-favored changes have gathered in Istanbul. A meeting Friday of the 30-nation European Leagues group will host two UEFA-backed fan groups, Football Supporters Europe and Supporters Direct Europe.
They want UEFA to review its previous decisions before the 2024-27 competition formats are marketed to broadcasters and sponsors in the coming weeks.
The leaders of Football Supporters Europe, known as FSE, met last week with UEFA officials and said Thursday their concerns are shared by an “overwhelming majority of fans across the continent.”
“First, we do not want, nor can we afford, more games,” FSE executive director Ronan Evain told the AP. “Second, allowing clubs to qualify to Europe based on past achievements goes against the very principle of sporting merit.”
The European Leagues group has long claimed that UEFA adding 100 extra games to the Champions League format would “cannibalize” broadcast deals for its members.
Total revenue for UEFA club competitions is now 3.5 billion euros ($3.7 billion) each season with most of it, 2 billion euros ($2.1 billion), shared among the 32 Champions League clubs.
A near-40% rise has been forecast by the ECA from the proposed new formats. Hellmann said more should be allocated to the Europa League and Europa Conference League.
Those competitions are also set to grow to 36 teams, though with fewer games than the Champions League. UEFA agreed last year to guarantee eight games per team in the Europa League and six in the Europa Conference.
Still, all decisions last April followed talks held under threat of a Super League breakaway, and UEFA itself cautioned “potential adjustments to the format approved today could still be made if necessary.”
One year ago, UEFA set a December 2021 target to finalize changes. One option is creating a Final Four-style Champions League tournament in a single venue instead of traditional two-leg semifinals.
Decision-making overran by several months and could yet go beyond the Vienna meetings. On the sidelines of the Champions League final on May 28 in Paris is a possible deadline.
AP Global Soccer Writer Rob Harris in London contributed to this report.
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Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press