No weekend switch for Champions League

Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin has dismissed the idea of Champions League knockout matches being played on weekends.

Reports had suggested that from 2021 the last-eight stage of the competition onwards could be switched to weekends. That would probably put Uefa on a collision course with the Premier League, although the fixture congestion created could be eased by the Champions League losing its last-16 stage, which is played across four weeks.

However, Ceferin told reporters after a Uefa executive committee meeting in Cardiff that the Champions League would continue to be played on its traditional Tuesday and Wednesday dates.

“We are not discussing playing Champions League matches for weekends,” Ceferin said, adding that he has held positive talks with Premier League boss Richard Scudamore over various issues.

“He (Scudamore) is very productive and very positive.

“He is, for sure, one of those pushing that side to come closer to Uefa, and I am the one pushing Uefa’s side to come close to the EPL.”

Ceferin, though, expressed his determination to make the Champions League more accessible to smaller clubs and associations throughout Uefa.

Relations between Uefa and many domestic leagues in Europe have become strained in recent months. Many of the smaller nations are angry that the four biggest leagues, including the Premier League, had secured four places each in the Champions League group stage from 2018 to 2021.

And the Premier League will have five places in next season’s competition after Manchester United qualified by winning the Europa League.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s final between Juventus and Real Madrid, Ceferin said: “It’s not easy to qualify for small clubs, but it is still possible.

“We all know the gap is wider and wider and we are working on it with Financial Fair Play. But it’s far from a closed league, far from only an elite competition.

“Some of the top five, six, seven clubs were not qualified for the semi-final this year.

“I would be excited to see new teams and Leicester was quite a new name this year.

“It is hard to say we can make it possible for every one of the smaller clubs and associations. But we are working on it every single day and we will discuss distribution.

“It’s a goal to do it. If we don’t do it then we can not develop football in every single country in Europe - and that’s our task. It’s one of our priorities.”

The 49-year Slovenian confirmed that video replays would not be introduced into the Champions League next season. Fifa is investigating the prospect of introducing video replays at the 2018 World Cup in Russia after trialling the technology at recent events, including the Club World Cup last December.

Ceferin said: “We will take stock of Fifa’s tests. We have to think about it. Nothing will happen completely for next season.”

The issues of sin bins and penalty shoot-outs were also addressed in Cardiff.

The trial of a fourth substitution in extra time, as well as yellow and red cards for team officials in the technical area, will be introduced this year at women’s EURO 2017, men’s European U21, women’s U19 and men’s U19 championships. It was also decided to continue with the trial of a new order of kicks for penalty shoot-outs, with the ABBA system replacing the ABAB one.

Ceferin also said that the recipient of this year’s Uefa President’s Award was Francesco Totti, who retired last weekend after 25 years service at Roma, while he announced plans to create a new Hall of Fame for European football.

Meanwhile Atletico Madrid will not be able to register any new players until January 2018 after the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld their appeal against a Fifa transfer ban.

Atletico, along with city rivals Real Madrid, were handed two-window transfer bans in January 2016 for multiple breaches of global football’s rules on the registration of under-18s and both clubs failed in their appeals to Fifa last September.

The two Spanish giants then took their cases to the CAS but, while Real saw their ban halved to one transfer window in December, Atletico announced yesterday that the only reduction they had been given was regarding a reduction of their financial penalty.

Listen to a preview of the Champions League final with European football writer Paul Little of the Daily Star and backpagefootball.com, Spanish-based football writer Dermot Corrigan and Italian football journalist Emanuele Giulianelli. Presented by Peter McNamara and Larry Ryan of the Irish Examiner.

 


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