Champions League: Controversial 36-team reforms and plans to safeguard places for big teams could be abandoned

The changes to enlarge the tournament and allow teams to qualify based on historic success were voted in by Uefa earlier this year but i understands they are now under review

Chelsea's French midfielder N'Golo Kante puts the Champions League trophy on a stand next to the Super Cup trophy ahead of the UEFA Super Cup football match between Chelsea and Villarreal at Windsor Park in Belfast on August 11, 2021. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)At present, reforms will see teams play an extra four games in the group stages (Photo: AFP)

Controversial reforms to the Champions League could yet be changed following the failed attempt of 12 clubs – including six from the Premier League – to form a breakaway European Super League.

In April, it had been agreed by Uefa that, from 2024, two historical coefficient qualification places would be available making it easier for clubs with a history of success in Europe to qualify for the Champions League if they finished outside their league’s allotted places. It effectively created a safety-net for bigger clubs.

A club would still have to finish the season in a Europa League or Europa Conference League place, but it could have meant last season Tottenham qualified for the Champions League despite finishing seventh. Spurs, instead, begin their Europa Conference League campaign on Thursday against Paços de Ferreira.

The revamped Champions League also increased the number of teams competing from 32 to 36 every season and added four extra games for each club competing that year. This created the potential to weaken the EFL Cup and FA Cup, which clubs playing in Europe often already feel they have to field weakened teams due to the packed football schedule.

The agreed plans were supposed to be announced in a press conference by Uefa president Aleksander Čeferin but the event was completely overshadowed by the seismic news that 12 clubs – including Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham – had decided to walk away from the Champions League to form a closed European Super League.

i has learned, however, that since the Super League collapsed the reforms are being reviewed. Uefa’s Executive Committee, who sign off on changes, is due to meet next month and could make a final decision then. Any changes will come into effect from 2024 and will last for at least nine seasons.

There has been a power shift in European football in the aftermath of the Super League’s embarrassing failure. For years, a breakaway league was used as a threat in negotiations for, but the public outrage after it was revealed 12 clubs had signed contracts binding them to the breakaway plans caused the cards to fall and has now significantly weakened their hand.

The European Club Association – previously led by Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli – was the driving force behind the reforms, but have gone through huge change since the 12 Super League clubs left the organisation. 

Agnelli has been replaced by Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi – one of the few clubs to reject the Super League proposals, alongside Bayern Munich. Nine of the clubs, including all of the English clubs, returned to the fold earlier this week. 

The ECA said in a statement: “The ECA executive board took into consideration the clubs’ acknowledgement that the so-called European Super League project was not in the interests of the wider football community and their publicly communicated decisions to abandon said ESL project completely. 

“The ECA board also acknowledged the clubs’ stated willingness to engage actively with ECA in its collective mission to develop European club football in the open and transparent interests of all, not the few.

“This decision of the ECA board marks the end of a regrettable and turbulent episode for European football and aligns with ECA’s relentless focus to strengthen unity in European football.”

Juventus, Real Madrid and Barcelona remain clinging to the Super League idea. They have taken legal action to prevent sanctions being imposed upon them by Uefa.

The Premier League clubs involved in the attempted breakaway were fined a collective £22million and agreed to rules that meant any future attempts would trigger a 30-point deduction and an additional £25m fine.

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