Agreement on new Champions League format delayed until April

A decision on the new Champions League format has been delayed until next month after hitting a late stumbling block over how the commercial and broadcasting rights will be sold to European football's elite competition.

UEFA hoped to use an executive committee meeting on Wednesday to ratify the expansion of the group stage from 32 to 36 teams, jumping from six to 10 rounds of matches from 2024.

There is broad agreement between European clubs and domestic leagues on the new format after years of wrangling. But UEFA has to resolve the broad details with the European Club Association over the creation of a joint venture to sell rights to the Champions League, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Clubs will gain a say only in the marketing and television rights sales of the competition, leaving UEFA to still control the sporting and governance aspects, the person said on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential talks.

UEFA wants a minimum guarantee of revenue to protect its financial position, while also taking a 6.5% cut of the cash generated by the joint venture that would replace Switzerland-based agency TEAM Marketing, which has had exclusive rights from UEFA to sell the Champions League since 1992.

The Champions League currently shares almost 2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) each season among 32 clubs, who are split into eight groups of four to start with. The new format will add 100 games as a 36-team single-standings league is created, adding in four more clubs from the current format.

That 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. The tournament would also play matches for the first time on Thursdays which has previously been reserved for the Europa League.

While the second-tier competition is envisaged to stay at 32 teams, it is also set to adopt a variation of the “Swiss System” format from chess tournaments. So the number of rounds in the group stage would rise from six to eight.

UEFA confirmed the future of club competitions from 2024 would still be discussed at the executive committee meeting on Wednesday.

“However, any official decision in this respect will only be made at the next UEFA executive committee meeting on 19 April, in order to finalize ongoing discussions," the governing body said in a statement.

European Leagues president Lars-Christer Olsson said last week he received “guarantees that no clubs are taking over the club competitions from UEFA” during a conversation with the governing body's leadership.

“It’s UEFA club competitions and they will always have the final say," Olsson said. “That is not handed over to any other body for decision making.”

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AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar contributed to this report.

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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