The Executive Committee agrees format changes to the UEFA Champions League.
Between 2009 and 2012, some 22 teams will qualify directly for the UEFA Champions League group stage instead of 16, and the UEFA Champions League final will be played on a Saturday, under format changes agreed by the UEFA Executive Committee at its meeting in Lucerne, Switzerland, on Friday.
Group stage unchanged
There will be no changes to the main part of European club football's most prestigious competition, which will continue to feature 32 teams split into eight groups of four in the group stage, followed by the knockout phase. The eight sides that finish in third place in their groups will move into the knockout phase of the UEFA Cup – which also has an amended format.
However, the UEFA Champions League access list between 2009 and 2012 will change accordingly: 22 teams go through directly to the group stage instead of 16. The six additional clubs will be the third-placed sides from the associations ranked between 1 and 3 in the ranking list, and the champions of countries ranked from 10 to 12.
Ten teams will qualify through a double qualifying route – one is reserved for the champions of the associations ranked from 13 to 53, with the exception of Liechtenstein. Five clubs will qualify via this route. The other path is reserved for the non-champions of associations rated between 1 and 15.
The final from 2009/10 will be played on a Saturday, in the same week of the year as now, kicking off at 20.45CET. Matches in the first knockout round, featuring 16 clubs, will be split over four weeks instead of two, using dates reserved for UEFA club competitions in February and March. The third qualifying round will be marketed centrally by UEFA.
"We are all of the opinion that this is a great competition which provides a considerable spectacle," said UEFA President Michel Platini. "The Executive Committee has unanimously adopted one of three proposals. I wanted more democracy in the access list, and the Executive Committee has understood this message.
Good for football
"I think that the decision which has been taken, in particular to spread the first knockout round over four weeks, is good for football, because it gives an added value to these matches," he added. It is also hoped that playing the UEFA Champions League final on a Saturday will give families, especially children, the chance to see the game.
UEFA Cup format
The UEFA Cup between 2009 and 2012 will feature 48 sides, split into 12 groups of four; the top two teams in each group will qualify for the knockout phase and be joined by the eight clubs that finish the group stage of the UEFA Champions League in third place. The knockout stage, with 32 sides and four rounds, will lead to the final, played in a single match at a neutral venue. The first round – currently knockout – will become part of the qualifying phase.
Only the title-holders will qualify directly for the UEFA Cup group stage, with all other clubs having to qualify. The qualifying process will consist of four rounds, with 37 additional slots compared to the present situation, to accommodate sides that currently qualify for the UEFA Intertoto Cup (from the associations ranked 9 to 15 and 22 to 51, except Liechtenstein). Losing teams in the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round and third qualifying round will move into the UEFA Cup fourth qualifying round and group phase respectively.
UEFA Cup ties will be played on a Thursday night – or on a Wednesday night during exclusive UEFA Cup weeks – with two kick-off times, in principle at 19.05 and 21.05CET. The final will take place on a Wednesday at 20.45.
UEFA Intertoto Cup abolished
Under the format decisions, the UEFA Intertoto Cup, UEFA's summer competition which has provided places in the UEFA Cup, will be abolished. No changes have been made to the format of the UEFA Super Cup, the game that brings together the UEFA Champions League winners and UEFA Cup holders, but this will now be sold in the same commercial package as the UEFA Champions League.
Click here for further details of the UEFA club competitions between 2009 and 2012.