Friday, 30 November 2007

European club competitions changed

UEFA have announced that the Champions League final will move to a Saturday evening from 2010, while there have been alterations to the format of the UEFA Cup, and the Intertoto Cup has been abolished.

The decisions were taken at a UEFA Executive Committee meeting in Lucerne, Switzerland today.

Qualification for European club football's most prestigious competition will change, with 22 teams earning automatic places based on their league finish and a two-part qualifying tournament for the 10 final spots - contested by teams from UEFA's 40 other member nations.

This means that the top three Serie A teams, along with the top three from Spain's Primera Liga and England's Premier League, will qualify automatically for the group stage.

But the fourth-placed sides in the top three ranked European leagues will face a stiffer test in the qualifying round, as they are more likely to face stronger opponents from the second seed nations.

Under the current format, only the top two from Italy, Spain and England are given automatic places in the group phase, while two more must qualify through the preliminary rounds.

"We are all of the opinion that this is a great competition which provides a considerable spectacle," said UEFA President Michel Platini about the changes.

"I also hope that playing the UEFA Champions League final on a Saturday will give families, especially children, the chance to see the game."

The UEFA Cup is also to be substantially changed between 2009 and 2012.

The tournament 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 Champions League in third place.

The knockout stage, with 32 sides and four rounds, will lead to the final.

All clubs will have to qualify for the UEFA Cup through the qualifying rounds as only the title-holders will qualify directly for the group stage.

The 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 1905 and 2105 (CET), with the final taking place on a Wednesday at 2045.

The summer Intertoto Cup tournament, which leads to UEFA Cup spots, has been scrapped from 2009, resulting in more sides qualifying for the UEFA Cup.

Source: UEFA

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