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UEFA promises clubs ‘significant increase’ of revenue in new UCL format

Thomas Tuchel explains his decision to largely keep Christian Pulisic on the bench throughout his Chelsea tenure.

GENEVA -- For all their differences of opinion regarding a revamped Champions League in 2024, all parties can agree that making more money is the inevitable way forward.

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UEFA general secretary Theodore Theodoridis, speaking Wednesday during an online European Leagues meeting, said there would be a “significant increase” in broadcast revenue when the new format comes into effect.

UEFA supports a plan to create a 36-team single-standings league, adding in four more clubs from the current format. That proposal, which is also backed by the influential European Club Association, calls for each team to play 10 matches in the first round, in turn creating 12 new broadcast slots from four midweek dates exclusively for the Champions League. The tournament would also play matches on Thursdays for the first time.

The 30-nation European Leagues group said Wednesday it prefers that teams play eight matches in the first round, creating 64 additional games instead of 100.

The Champions League currently shares $2.4 billion among 32 clubs each season. More broadcast revenue should in turn create more prize money for clubs.

“No matter what, we are expecting a significant increase (in revenue),” Theodoridis said.

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UEFA hopes to gain approval for the plan before its next congress on April 20.

A broad consensus is forming after talks in 2019 stalled in a dispute between clubs and leagues. UEFA led the latest talks amid reported threats of elite clubs breaking away to form their own Super League.

“We realize this is an innovative and attractive proposal,” European Leagues managing director Jacco Swart said of the 36-team standings.

The UEFA proposal would guarantee 10 games for each of the 36 teams, against 10 different opponents with balanced schedules based on seedings. The current format consists of six group games against three opponents.

The top eight teams would advance to the round of 16. The next best 16 teams would enter a two-leg playoff to complete the bracket.

Clubs and leagues still disagree on how to allocate the four extra entries.

The ECA wants two places saved for clubs with a high UEFA ranking, or “coefficient,” based on historic results. They could be upgraded from the second-tier Europa League or third-tier Europa Conference League. The European Leagues want champions in mid-ranking leagues to be rewarded.

Boosting a club to the Champions League which had not qualified on merit could be worth $59 million in prize money. Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow told the meeting that was “unfair and just not feeling right.”

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The European Leagues also want UEFA to decide how to distribute prize money at the same time as agreeing on the format. They want to help close the wealth gap by sharing more than the current 4 percent of UEFA prize money among clubs which do not qualify for European competitions.

Theodoridis said UEFA planned to review the entire model for “solidarity” payments from 2024 and hoped to send more to clubs outside the wealthiest countries.

On Monday, ECA chairman Andrea Agnelli praised the new Champions League format as close to ideal. His club, Italian team Juventus, is among those who have long wanted extra income from more games against top European clubs.

The European Leagues group believes that a bigger Champions League could take revenue and calendar space from its members, though they appear to have protected weekend schedules for themselves. Only the Champions League final would be scheduled on a weekend, as it has been since 2010.

Swart said UEFA aims to give European club competitions stability — and eliminate the possibility of a Super League — for at least a decade.

The UEFA proposal would also make the Europa League and the Europa Conference League, which starts next season, a single-standings format. Each would have 32 teams playing six different opponents.