Champions League draw: What was the problem with the first draw and why did they do it again?

Champions League
(Image credit: Getty)

Fiasco engulfed UEFA's Champions League last-16 draw today, after the initial draw was declared void due to a computer error.

The entire draw took place at 11am GMT in Nyon, Switzerland, before draws for UEFA's other competitions the Europa League and Europa Conference League.

However, after concerns were raised, the whole Champions League draw process happened again at 2pm.


Adidas release new Champions League ball ahead of the knockout stages

Champions League last-16 draw: Manchester United to face Atletico, Real Madrid get PSG

What was the problem with the first Champions League draw?

The one-line explanation is that Manchester United were mistakenly excluded from part of the draw, meaning that there was no way they could be drawn against Atletico Madrid.

They were then drawn against Paris Saint-Germain, which is widely seen as a tougher fixture.

At which point Manchester United went: "Er, hang on, this ain't right."*

*Not a real quote, sadly.

So what happened with the draw?

This is FourFourTwo's understanding of the process:

For each potential fixture a can team be drawn into, they receive a ball, which unscrews and reveals a piece of paper with their name on it. These are all kept in separate pots, clearly labelled with that team's name. When a fixture is being drawn, one ball from each eligible team is put into a new pot. After that fixture is drawn, the excess balls from that new pot are thrown away.

It's done like this because teams from the same country, or were in a group together, cannot be drawn against each other at this stage.

Chelsea, for instance, finished second in their group so are 'unseeded'. But the 'seeded' teams include Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United (all English) and Juventus (who were in the same group), so they can only be drawn against Lille, Ajax, Bayern Munich or Real Madrid. Therefore, it seems, they only have four balls in the 'Chelsea' pot at the beginning.

Champions League

(Image credit: UEFA / BT Sport)

When Villarreal were pulled out of the unseeded pot, no Manchester United ball should have been placed in the new pot to be drawn as their opponents, as they were in Group F together. When they were, it may have created a Manchester United ball shortage, and they were missed out from the next draw, against Atletico Madrid, for which they would have been eligible.

The computer for the draw wrongly showing on the screen that United were ineligible and that Liverpool were eligible when they shouldn't be. This can be seen on the left of this image, taken from the UEFA broadcast earlier today:

Champions League

(Image credit: UEFA)

This suggests that the mistake for putting Manchester United in the pot may have been a computer error to start with – that's certainly UEFA's suggestion:

See more

From a viewer's perspective, only the draws featuring Villarreal and Atletico Madrid had obvious errors, but UEFA said that it couldn't confirm that all the fixtures were not subject to a similar problem, voiding the entire draw.

Subscribe to FourFourTwo today and save over a third on standard price.

Restock your kit bag with the best deals for footballers on Amazon right now


LIST Football Manager 2022: All the FM22 wonderkids you'll need to sign

TALENT FIFA 22: The 150 best wonderkids in the game

GUIDE Best football gifts: Present ideas for football fans

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Conor Pope
Online Editor

Conor Pope is the former Online Editor of FourFourTwo, overseeing all digital content. He plays football regularly, and has a large, discerning and ever-growing collection of football shirts from around the world.

He supports Blackburn Rovers and holds a season ticket with south London non-league side Dulwich Hamlet. His main football passions include Tugay, the San Siro and only using a winter ball when it snows.