Champions League: Group-stage revamp plans face resistance

The European Leagues body will hold a general meeting on Friday to discuss the plans after concerns that too much is being given to the big clubs and leagues.

The overhaul is UEFA’s strategy to rebuff plans to launch a largely closed breakaway competition — which has been pushed by Barcelona and Real Madrid — and maintain qualification through domestic leagues.   -  Getty Images

Plans to reform the Champions League by expanding the competition from 32 to 36 teams and replacing the traditional group stage, face resistance over the allocation of the extra four places.

The European Leagues body, which brings together the continent's domestic competitions, is holding a general meeting on Friday to discuss the plans after concerns that too much is being given to the big clubs and leagues.

UEFA's 55 national federations will be given a presentation from the governing body next week while the European Club Association is also heavily involved in the talks.

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Europe's biggest clubs have been pushing for those places to favour the traditional powerhouses while smaller leagues and national federations want to see the spots open to them.

Under the version of the plans discussed by UEFA, one extra place would go to the French league, while the others would be distributed according to UEFA's club 'co-efficient' rankings.

The new format, scheduled to begin in 2024, would see those places not available for teams in the qualifying rounds but distributed according to a yet to be agreed new method.

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Sources say this aspect is causing concern among non-elite representatives as it would open the door to the Premier League, La Liga, the Bundesliga and Serie A having more than four clubs.

The plan sees the replacement of the round-robin stage and the UEFA wants to replace it with a single league table in which 36 clubs would play 10 different opponents and qualification would come from one league table.

The match-ups will be based upon a seeding system ensuring that each club faces roughly the same level of 'difficult' and 'easier' matches.

Under the plan, the top eight teams in the 36-team league table would qualify straight to the last 16 while the teams ranked 9-16 would playoff with those who finished 16-24 in a seeded format.

The inclusion of this playoff phase is designed to keep interest in the opening phase of the competition alive for as long as possible but it could result in a team that finishes 24th in a group of 36 advancing.