Relegation, more matches and favours big clubs: Proposed Champions League plans

There would be four groups of eight teams from 2024 if the proposal is put into action and it would significantly increase the number of European matches and favour bigger clubs.

The UEFA Champions League trophy.   -  Getty Images

UEFA has drafted a controversial plan to introduce promotion and relegation to the Champions League at a meeting at its Swiss headquarters in Nyon, sources told AFP on Wednesday.

There would be four groups of eight teams from 2024 if the proposal is put into action and it would significantly increase the number of European matches and favour bigger clubs.

But UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin played down the plan, saying: “What is important to remember, is that, despite a lot of talk in the media, no decisions have been made. At the moment we have only ideas and opinions.”

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The revamped tournament would not see games played at weekends, which would have sparked uproar among the domestic leagues.

The top five teams in each group would be automatically qualified for the next edition, effectively making the Champions League far harder for clubs from smaller countries to play in.

There would be 14 matchdays in the group stage instead of six, with teams continuing to play opponents home and away. That would necessitate drastic changes to domestic schedules, with league and cup matches currently also being played in midweek.

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Change to European club tournaments has become a controversial issue after Andrea Agnelli, the president of the European Club Association (ECA), outlined proposals for a “pan-European league system” that would greatly reduce the number of teams qualifying from domestic competitions.

The UEFA drafts suggest a move in that direction, although the number of clubs in the Champions League would remain at 32. In recent seasons, the group stage has featured eight pools of four teams.

“The process starts. We'll see how the discussions and negotiations evolve,” the European Leagues association said in a statement to AFP.

The ECA demanded on Tuesday that UEFA “properly include” it in any plans to change Europe's elite competition.

“When the Champions League was last changed in 2016, UEFA was criticised for not holding discussions with its stakeholders,” added Ceferin. “When I became president shortly afterwards, I insisted that any future changes should be subject to consultation and today's meeting is further evidence of that.”

European football's governing body has already been criticised for changing the qualifying criteria for the Champions League, with the top four sides from each of the continent's big four leagues -- England, Spain, Italy and Germany -- automatically qualifying for this season's group stage.

Ajax was one of the teams hit hardest by the most recent Champions League changes. It had to come through three qualifying rounds just to make the group stage earlier this campaign.