AP Interview: UEFA head considers retaining single-leg games

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin will hold talks about retaining the single-game eliminator format that has been used to complete the pandemic-disrupted Champions League and Europa League seasons, although it could only be used for semifinals.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Sunday, Ceferin said people inside and outside of football had contacted him to say they were “extremely excited” by the final eight format that abandoned the home-and-away two-legged quarterfinals and semifinals.

“I have to say that this system of one match seems more interesting to me than the other system with two legged matches,” Ceferin told the AP ahead of Paris Saint-Germain playing Bayern Munich in the Champions League final.

Ceferin stressed he would consult widely before pushing for any permanent changes to the format.

“It's one of the interesting things that was brought by this pandemic,” Ceferin said. "We had to do a system like that. We had to play this way, but at the end, we see it’s a very interesting system.

“Now, it’s quite complicated to place a final eight in the calendar. But we saw that people want exciting matches, that in one match, every team can beat every team in Champions League or the Europa League. So it’s something to consider for the future ... I think in September or October, we have to start to seriously speak.”

Ceferin is not concerned that removing the number of knockout games could have a significant financial impact on UEFA

“Even though you have less matches, the value can be higher if promoted properly,” he said. “I see my friends from football and out of football calling me and texting me and they are all extremely excited about this system. Not so much tactics.”

Gathering eight teams in Lisbon to conclude the Champions League appeared to be only feasible because no fans were allowed in the two stadiums as part of coronavirus restrictions, meaning the Portuguese authorities have not had to deal with rival factions gathering in the streets.

A final four format could be more practical to adopt in a single city over a week to create a Super Bowl-style buzz.

“You are in the center of attention for a week of the whole world and this might be a fantastic thing, but we have to see,” Ceferin said. “The calendar is very complicated, players play almost 365 days per year. So we have to see how we do it, if we do it.

"But again, I think it’s an interesting format, which we didn’t think about before and now it’s somewhere here in our mind. So we will start discussing about it when we meet up.”

UEFA has already been exploring how to change the Champions League format after 2024. The final eight system has also been used to conclude the Europa League and Women's Champions League this month.


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