UEFA on Friday confirmed that they will push ahead with previously announced plans to reform the Champions League and will provide compensation for smaller leagues affected by the changes.
European football’s governing body made the announcement after an executive committee meeting at their base in Nyon, Switzerland.
In August, European football’s governing body had revealed that the continent’s four leading leagues — Spain, England, Germany and Italy — would be guaranteed four places in the Champions League group stage for the period 2018-2021.
The move had been backed by the European Clubs Association (ECA) made up of the continent’s biggest clubs but the European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) body had been opposed to the changes on the basis that they overly favoured the current elite and felt they would hog the prize money as a result.
To ease concerns after meeting with the EPFL, UEFA’s new Slovenian president Aleksander Ceferin said that the current number of berths in the Champions League would be maintained for all countries.
Furthermore, domestic champions who are eliminated in the qualifying rounds will get a second chance in European competitions by entering a “dedicated champions’ path” in Europa League qualification.
Previously there was no second chance on offer to these teams.
In addition, a pool of 50 million euros (£42 million; $52.7 million) will be passed down by the Champions League to the Europa League, “and a further 10 million euros will be earmarked also from the UEFA Champions League as additional solidarity distribution for the qualifying rounds.”
The club coefficient system will also be looked at to avoid teams from top-ranked leagues gaining an unfair advantage — for example, a club like Leicester City, with little European track record, would not benefit so much simply from coming out of the Premier League.
– Current World Cup format ‘works’ –
UEFA also confirmed a change to the kick-off times of matches in the group stage from 2018, with two games starting at 7pm Central European Time and six at 9pm, compared to all matches starting at 8:45pm CET in the current format.
Meanwhile, UEFA announced on Friday that the 2018 Europa League final will be played in the French city of Lyon.
Lyon opened their 59,000-seat Parc OL at the beginning of this year.
The 2017 Europa League final will be played in Stockholm while the Champions League final in 2018 will be played in Kiev.
In addition, UEFA has invited countries wishing to bid to host Euro 2024 to confirm their interest by March 3, 2017. The winning bid will be announced in September 2018.
Euro 2020 will be staged across 13 different countries and while that will surely be a one-off, UEFA did say they will allow joint bids for 2024.
Ceferin was also asked for his views on new FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s proposal to expand the World Cup to 48 teams from 2026 but complained that the world game’s governing body had not provided enough information on the matter thus far.
“I don’t want to talk about it because we don’t have a lot of information from FIFA, but at the moment we have a system that works,” Ceferin said of the current 32-team format.
“After the last Council meeting in October, FIFA had promised to give us an analysis of the different formats that had been proposed, but they have still not done so.
“We are discovering different formats in the press every day.”