UEFA says that it will take a decision in December on the future of its second major club competition, the UEFA Cup.
A statement issued after a two-day meeting of the UEFA Executive Committee in Nyon, Switzerland said that the committee "agreed to conduct a further evaluation on the future of the UEFA Cup, with a view to taking a decision at its meeting on 12/13 December".
UEFA and Europe's clubs are discussing proposals for a new UEFA Cup format as part of moves to enhance the image and financial viability of the competition. UEFA has already made an initial proposal involving a modified format, and the topic is being discussed within the European Club Forum, a newly formed body in which UEFA and 102 major European clubs are examining the future development of the European club game.
European football’s governing body has recognised that the UEFA Cup competition needs a fresh profile to help its development within the current football environment, and to make the competition an attractive alternative to UEFA's flagship event, the UEFA Champions League – which itself will have a new format from the 2003/04 season.
UEFA announced on Thursday that it will be revamping the UEFA Champions League. Under the new format, 32 teams will play one group stage, before the competition reverts to a 16-team knockout phase. The change is also seen as a positive move as far as the UEFA Cup is concerned.
"Having made this decision, it will be easier for us to find better concepts for the UEFA Cup, because obviously we will have more air around our fixtures. That will help us to find solutions for the UEFA Cup, which is in decline as a competition and is not a real alternative for clubs who fail to qualify for the Champions League," says UEFA Chief Executive Gerhard Aigner.
"So, if we can create a better niche for the UEFA Cup, if the sporting and economic conditions are improved, then the failure of not qualifying for the Champions League is not so big if the UEFA Cup offers a decent alternative. So this is an important aspect that we will now consider," he adds.
The current UEFA Cup has 96 first-round participants, with 13 match days and 205 matches as from the first round. The whole competition is played on a knockout basis. Clubs finishing in third place in the Champions League first-stage groups presently join the UEFA Cup in the third round.
However, European clubs have requested a group phase to revitalise the UEFA Cup's financial and sporting appeal, and UEFA is looking for a considerable increase in the TV revenue of approximately €103m generated under the current format.
40-team group phase
UEFA’s proposal, revealed earlier this month, involves an 80-team first round played under the knockout format, followed by a 40-team group phase featuring eight groups of five teams each. Sixteen teams would then begin a second knock-out phase, culminating in the final.
UEFA and the clubs will discuss the model in working groups, with the final proposal being presented to the Executive Committee for its decision at the end of the year. The revamped competition would begin in the 2003/04 season, at the same time as the new-look Champions League.
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