Plans for a reformed 36-team Champions League which would start in 2024 could be agreed by the end of this month.
European Clubs’ Association (ECA) chairman Andrea Agnelli expects the final details – around how the four extra places will be allocated – to be resolved in the next couple of weeks.
If the ECA meets that timescale, European governing body Uefa would almost certainly look to sign it off.
Should that happen it would end further talk of a European Super League (ESL).
Uefa general secretary Giorgio Marchetti referred to the ESL concept in his opening address to the ECA general assembly on Monday.
“Unity can be lost when insidious ideas are pursued under the pretence of survival, growth and business needs,” he said.
Agnelli, who is also chairman of Juventus, was vague when asked about his involvement in ESL talks but described the new-style Champions League as very close to his ideal.
What would the new Champions League look like?
The idea, which has been credited to Ajax chief executive Edwin van der Sar, would lead to radical change to the group phase.
Instead of eight groups of four playing six games each as is currently the case, all teams would play 10 matches against opponents of varying strengths and decided on each club’s Uefa ranking.
Results in these matches would form an overall table which, along with some two-legged play-offs, would determine qualification for the post-Christmas knockout rounds.
The individual European leagues want the four additional places to go to champions of ‘middle-tier’ countries – leagues whose champions do not already automatically go through to the group stage – and be decided on sporting merit.
But the likelihood is two of the places will be given as ‘wildcards’ – with England likely to benefit from an additional fifth place – which could be decided on co-efficient.
Confirmation of the impending changes will sharpen minds across the English game as there is little space for additional European matches in the calendar and is therefore likely to generate further discussion around the future of the EFL Cup.
“The balance we are trying to strike is one-third international and two-thirds domestic,” said Agnelli.
“We do think for competitive balance purposes, 20-team leagues is too many.”
The Premier League has already dismissed the idea of moving to 18 teams, which was part of the ‘Project Big Picture’ proposals that surfaced last year.
Will there be more changes?
In answering a question about the likelihood of capping player salaries and agents’ fees, Agnelli spoke about major changes to the transfer system which, as impractical as it appears, he feels may involve an agreement by leading clubs not to sell players to each other.
“The moment is fertile to think of greater solutions,” he said. “We should be looking at a wide range of reforms.
“We could think of a double path transfer system, where clubs qualifying for specific tiers of international competition wouldn’t be allowed to buy each other’s players.
“That would improve the indirect solidarity to other clubs and mean no triple-figure transfers amongst Champions League participating clubs. These are elements we are discussing.”
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