Premier League chief believes expanded Champions League could still be reviewed

Richard Masters File Photo
(Image credit: Mike Egerton)

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters believes there is still an opportunity for UEFA to tweak the post-2024 Champions League format amid concerns over its impact on the domestic game.

The plans for a 36-team group stage with four extra matches per club were approved by UEFA’s executive committee on April 19, but were completely overshadowed by the announcement of a breakaway European Super League the previous evening.

The swift collapse of the ESL has led to suggestions that a wider rethink of the best way forward for European club competitions is now likely, and Masters said: “UEFA’s process for fine-tuning their competition package post-24 is ongoing, and we have in the past registered our views about the number of games.

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“I mean, clearly 10 group-stage games bumps straight into the English football calendar and, particularly with the League Cup, creates significant issues.

“We know too that some of our clubs are not supportive of the co-efficient method of qualification, so it remains to be seen what is happening.”

Masters’ last remark referred to a change around qualification for the Champions League, with two places per season reserved for clubs who miss out via the usual domestic route but have the best historical record.

Premier League bosses have pointed out that could allow traditional big clubs to ‘leapfrog’ into Europe’s most lucrative competition and impact on the integrity of domestic leagues, including the English top flight.

Supporters share the same concerns over the new format and expressed those worries directly to UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin at a virtual meeting on Wednesday.

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The Football Supporters’ Association came away encouraged by Ceferin’s commitment to consulting and engaging with fans “before any final decision is reached” on the shape of European competition from 2024 onwards.

Ceferin said: “Fans are the heart of football and we need to do more to engage them as a legitimate stakeholder. They have much to contribute and we should give them a voice on important relevant matters.”

The Premier League is undertaking its own investigation into the circumstances surrounding the involvement of the competition’s ‘Big Six’ in the ESL breakaway.

Masters wants the probe to be conducted “efficiently, justly and appropriately” but said he would not prejudge the outcome by saying whether he thought the clubs should be punished.

The league is tightening its rules and regulations to avoid a repeat, and drafting a new ‘Owners’ Charter’.

Oliver Dowden

Oliver Dowden thinks it would be unwise for the ESL to attempt something similar in the future (Yui Mok/PA)

The Football Association is also conducting its own inquiry into the involvement of English clubs in the Super League.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden believes the backlash against the proposals means it would be unwise for the ESL to attempt something similar in the future.

Dowden said at a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee meeting: “This was a hostile act and we were willing to resist it.

“If I was the European Super League and had seen the unanimity in this country from everyone – from His Royal Highness, the Duke of Cambridge through to fans, through to the Prime Minister and the rest of the Government, it was pretty clear how the nation felt about this.

“I think they would be very unwise to bring it back but it’s for them to answer that.”

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