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    Wednesday, 11 May 2022

    Champions League: UEFA make rule change that could accommodate over four Premier League clubs

    The number of teams in the Champions League group stage will rise from 32 to 36 from 2024-25 under changes approved by Uefa


    The Champions League could feature five English clubs on a regular basis from 2024 - and up to seven in exceptional circumstances - after a major overhaul of the competition was agreed on Tuesday.

    More than a year of intense debate about the best way forward for Europe's premier club competition following the collapse of the Super League has concluded.

    A plan to give two Champions League places to individual clubs solely on the basis of their past European performance was initially put into consideration but has now been abandoned, with UEFA deciding to award the two places in a new expanded 36-team league system to clubs from the two countries who collectively performed best in Europe's club competitions in the previous season.

    That means two of the four extra places will be awarded on the performance of a club's country in Europe over the previous season.

    Connoting if the rules were effective at present, the Premier League and Dutch Eredivisie would receive an extra place each for next season.

    Uefa said another place would go to the third-placed league team in the country standing fifth in their rankings - at present, that team joins in the third qualifying round.

    The fourth place would go to one country's domestic champions by increasing from four to five the number of teams who qualify via the 'Champions Path'.

    In theory seven English teams could qualify in a single season in this new model - the top four in the Premier League, a fifth-placed team via the country coefficient and the winners of the Champions League and the Europa League, if these were all different clubs.

    Uefa rejected the proposal to allow clubs into the competition solely on the basis of past performance after critics argued it would favour 'bigger' clubs and provided them with a safety net if they performed poorly in a season.

    UEFA also modified an initial plan to increase the number of games in the group phase per team from six to 10 - instead raising the number of matches to eight.

    How the new format will work

    The current format sees teams divided up into eight groups of four, with teams playing each other home and away over six games.

    The top two in each group progress to the last 16 when it becomes a knockout tournament, with ties played home and away over two legs, before the final at a neutral venue over one match.

    The new format will see the initial phase contain one single league table, which includes all teams. Each club will play eight league stage games against different opponents, with four home ties and four away.

    The top eight will go through to the knockout stage, while those from ninth to 24th will compete in a two-legged play-off to progress.

    Uefa added that "similar format changes will also be applied to the Europa League (eight matches in the league stage) and Europa Conference League (six matches in the league stage) and both will also include 36 teams in the league phase".

    The European Club Association (ECA), which represents more than 240 clubs, said it endorses the reforms made by Uefa.

    It said the changes "mean that the new-look competitions will have the best start in life, resulting from exhaustive consultations between Uefa and ECA over a number of years that ensure the legitimate interests of all relevant stakeholders are respected - driven by collective rather than self-interest".

    It added: "The new format also gives the opportunity for future growth of European football in a sustainable, responsible and inclusive way."

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