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Champions League: What do the proposed changes mean?

 Luis Enrique manager of Barcelona
Image: Barcelona celebrate victory in the Champions League last season

Sky Sports News HQ's Anton Toloui explains the proposed changes to the Champions League.

What are the proposed changes?

Basically, the tournament will start with a knockout competition instead of the group stage. So 32 teams entering the tournament will start with a two-legged tie, which will act as a play-off for a place in the new mini-league.

And what is this mini-league?

The last 16 teams remaining will be separated into two leagues of eight. Each team will play each other home and away, so each team will play 14 games.

What does this mean for the "bigger clubs"?

Traditional Champions League contenders from Europe's big leagues will be delighted if this proposal is accepted. It will mean seven guaranteed home games potentially against fellow sides from Europe's "Big 5" leagues. That will result in increased ticket revenue and more people watching on TV around the world.

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Manchester United's Wayne Rooney (R) holds up the Champions League
Image: Manchester United's Wayne Rooney holds up the Champions League trophy

Is TV the big reason for the change?

There's no doubting international TV markets have a huge impact on the clubs. Teams in Europe are concerned about trying to compete with Premier League teams when their new TV deal kicks in next season - this will help soften the blow. A mini-league format should mean more games involving the bigger clubs week-in, week-out, which means the next Champions League TV deal will be easier to sell to markets around the world.

So bad news for the smaller clubs then?

On the face of it, the chances of an extended European campaign for clubs outside the "Big 5" leagues look diminished. However, romantics will point out that a win over two legs in the first round could guarantee 14 matches against some of Europe's biggest teams. The problem there is we still don't know when teams from various countries will enter the competition. Also, a re-jigged, larger team-friendly tournament will be easier for UEFA to sell to foreign TV markets. That means more money for all of the clubs taking part, so the smaller teams could come out of this richer too.

Josep Guardiola kisses the trophy at the end of the UEFA Champions League final football match FC Barcelona vs. Manchester United
Image: Pep Guardiola kisses the trophy after Barcelona's victory

I'm confused. So it's a good thing for them then?

In purely footballing terms, probably not. One thing that isn't apparent is how many rounds teams will have to go through until they reach the new group stage. That may depend on UEFA's complicated coefficient system but some sides will inevitably have to play multiple two-legged ties before qualifying for the group stage. Another element that is up for debate is exactly when the top teams will enter the competition. Bigger clubs will always want as much protection as possible and will push to enter the tournament as late as possible.

So is this to combat talk of a European Super League?

Yes and no. Big clubs want to play each other more often in order to maximise revenue and gain maximum exposure. But there are many critics of the current Champions League format, with the current eight groups of four teams system often leading to obvious results as top seeds tend to play one or two smaller teams every year. The hope is that this would make the tournament more exciting by placing more evenly matched teams against each other on a regular basis and by increasing the number of knock-out games early on.

CL changes discussed
CL changes discussed

UEFA is in talks with clubs to change the format of the Champions League

So when could we see change?

No changes to the competition can take place before the 2018-19 season, when the current international TV deals expire. The bidding process for the next set of contracts start at the end of the year, so UEFA will want this matter agreed by then with September a date mooted.

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