by Linda Ikeji
UEFA has admitted it could change to a ‘final eight’ format for the Champions League and Europa League from 2024.
The format proved to be a big hit as the single-country, one-leg format was used to conclude last season’s competition in a campaign hugely disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
UEFA this season announced it will revert to the regular two-legged system for quarter-finals and semi-finals for the rest of this season, but has not ruled out a change to the format beyond that.
Giorgio Marchetti, UEFA’s deputy general secretary, said: “A good rule is to never exclude something which proves valuable or has potential.
“We know there are many elements that need to be taken into account, such as calendar and organisational constraints, fans’ involvement, economic implications, but we will for sure study this format and its variations for our upcoming discussions.
“Single knock-out matches obviously favour uncertainty and emotions.
“We received great feedback from clubs, broadcasters and other partners as well as from the fans. The circumstances made this format a must, but the result could not be better as well as the degree of satisfaction.”
The 2019/20 Champions League’s final stages took place in Lisbon, while the German cities of Cologne, Duisburg, Dusseldorf and Gelsenkirchen hosted the conclusion of the Europa League.
Marchetti admitted that staging all European competitions had been the result of great co-operation between all clubs and league associations.
“The football community really worked together: without the joint work and unity of intents with national associations, leagues and clubs nothing would have been achieved,” he said.
“And as we had only two months to set up simultaneous tournaments in Portugal, Germany and Spain, the local federations and authorities supported us massively.”
He said UEFA would take the same ‘strong determination’ that helped them pull off the final stages of last season’s competitions into the rest of 2020/21, which is taking place against the backdrop of a second wave of coronavirus infections across the continent.
“Everybody watched the final eight tournaments in August. What almost nobody knows is that from the beginning of August almost 500 UEFA matches have already been played,” he said.
“All the qualification rounds to Champions League and Europa League (no one single club was excluded from the access list), two men’s and one women’s international windows, under-21s.
“There are many restrictions and a strict protocol to apply with an incredible number of tests on all teams, but these difficulties don’t scare us.”