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MAJOR changes to the Champions League format have been approved after “zero consultation” with players, according to the boss of the Professional Footballers’ Association.
Uefa finally confirmed a new look for Europe’s premier club competition this week, with a 36-team league phase replacing the 32-team group stage from the 2024-25 season.
Teams will play eight matches in the league phase compared with six currently, and 16 teams face a further two matches each in the newly introduced play-off round.
Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin lauded the changes on Tuesday and said they demonstrated that the European game was “more united than ever.”
PFA chief executive Maheta Molango was less impressed, though. He felt commercial interests had been prioritised and that players felt “a long way down the list” when it came to their voice being heard and listened to.
“Once again this season, the Champions League has delivered exciting games with high drama, played at the very highest level and with PFA members at the heart of them,” Molango said.
“Looking forward though, we are seeing major changes to European competitions, with more games being introduced to an already crowded elite calendar, but all implemented with zero consultation with those who actually play the game.
“Conversations around the structure of European competitions, for example the proposed new Champions League group stages, seem to be based entirely on commercial priorities rather than the welfare of players who are consistently being asked to push themselves further.”
The Champions League format changes, which will see the number of matches increase from 125 to 189, have been made at a time when debate is also raging about the future of international football, with Fifa having consulted over the idea of biennial World Cups.
Molango added: “We know from our conversations with players, that they have real concerns about the structure of the calendar, and specifically the sense that they are being viewed as a long way down in the list of football’s priorities.
“As we have said consistently, what is needed is a ‘player-first’ approach which is based on their physical capabilities and what should be a collective desire — from players, fans and administrators — to ensure that we see the best version of the game those playing it are capable of producing.
“That’s not going to be achieved by simply shifting a kick-off time or scrapping a cup replay, especially when the gaps created are predictably filled. This needs a bold approach, and players need to be at the centre of the conversation.”
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