MADRID, SPAIN - SATURDAY, JUNE 1, 2019: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrates with the trophy after the UEFA Champions League Final match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Estadio Metropolitano. Liverpool won 2-0 to win their sixth European Cup. (Pic by Peter Makadi/Propaganda)

UEFA scrap controversial proposal in new 36-team Champions League

UEFA has scrapped its coefficient plans for the Champions League from the 2024/25 season and insisted the U-turn has occurred due to its “commitment to the principles of open competition” following an exhaustive consultation.

An agreement was reached in Vienna between UEFA and the European Club Association on access to the new-look competition, which will now award two Champions League places to countries whose clubs collectively performed best in Europe during the previous campaign.

There had been a proposal to award those places in the new 36-team league phase to individual clubs based on European performances over five years, but following a raft of criticism and after Tuesday’s UEFA Executive Committee meeting, a change has been made.

It means if the decision to award two places to clubs from countries who performed best in Europe in the previous season had been brought in for the 2022/23 term, England and Holland would gain an extra spot each.

The other key amendment voted through in Austria related to the reduction from 10 matches to eight in the new Champions League phase, which was first proposed in April last year to follow the ‘Swiss system’.

“Following an exhaustive consultation with stakeholders in the game, the UEFA Executive Committee has today in Vienna approved the final format and access list for European club competitions as of the 2024/25 season,” a statement read.

“The key amendments relate to the reduction from 10 matches to eight in the league phase of the UEFA Champions League and the change of criteria for the allocation of two of the four additional places in the UEFA Champions League, removing access based on club coefficient.

“This confirms UEFA’s strong commitment to the principle of open competitions and sporting merit, while recognising the need to protect domestic leagues.”

The ECA added in a statement: “ECA has worked together with UEFA since the reforms were first initiated a number of years ago, to ensure the most balanced and progressive evolution to the club competitions.

“As the representative voice of the clubs who participate in these competitions, ECA has long championed reforms to make club football across all European competitions more sustainable, inclusive and successful.”

LISBON, PORTUGAL - Sunday, August 23, 2020: The European Cup trophy on display before the UEFA Champions League Final between FC Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain at the Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica. (Credit: ©UEFA)

Under the approved country coefficient system England would have secured an extra place in four of the last five seasons, the exception being in the 2019/20 season, when the places would have gone to Germany and Spain.

New proposals were presented to the ECA in Madrid on Monday and the indications then were that more time would be needed to reach a decision, possibly forcing the decision back until later this month at least.

However, a key meeting of UEFA’s club competitions committee was delayed on Tuesday morning to allow more time for the final detail to be worked out.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said: “UEFA has clearly shown today that we are fully committed to respecting the fundamental values of sport and to defending the key principle of open competitions, with qualification based on sporting merit, fully in line with the values and solidarity-based European sports model.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin is having to deal with the coronavirus fallout (Niall Carson/PA)

“Today’s decisions conclude an extensive consultation process during which we listened to the ideas of fans, players, coaches, national associations, clubs and leagues to name but a few, with the aim to find the best solution for the development and success of European football, both domestically and on the international club stage.

“We are convinced that the format chosen strikes the right balance and that it will improve the competitive balance and generate solid revenues that can be distributed to clubs, leagues and into grassroots football across our continent while increasing the appeal and popularity of our club competitions.

“I am really pleased that it was a unanimous decision of the UEFA Executive Committee, with the European Club Association, European Leagues and National Associations all agreeing with the proposal made. Another proof that European football is more united than ever.

“Qualification will thus remain purely based on sporting performance and the dream to participate will remain for all clubs.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, April 13, 2022: Liverpool supporters sing "You'll Never Walk Alone" before the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 2nd Leg game between Liverpool FC and SL Benfica at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

UEFA originally approved changes to the format in April last year but the announcement was totally overshadowed by the formation of the Super League hours earlier.

At that point, the format included a leap from the current six matches to 10, and the awarding of two places to clubs based on historic performance over five seasons provided they had done enough to qualify for one of the other two UEFA club competitions.

Europe’s domestic leagues opposed the increase in matches and the coefficient proposal, and still objected even when the proposal was tweaked to avoid clubs leapfrogging rivals who performed better domestically into Europe’s premier club competition.