Champions League revamp ‘already a success,’ says PSG’s Al-Khelaifi

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OEIRAS, Portugal: Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said Monday the sharp rise in Champions League TV rights shows the overhaul of the competition’s format from 2024 is a “success already.”

“The sales for the new format in the US have increased without even Spanish language 150 percent, and the UK and France increased a lot also,” said Al-Khelaifi, a main opponent of the aborted Super League project.

“I think it shows this new format is already a success even before it has started,” he told a video conference organized near Lisbon by the Portuguese FA.

From 2024 the group stage will be expanded to feature 36 clubs, up from 32, with all teams together in one pool and playing eight matches, instead of eight groups of four teams.

It is the first significant change to the competition in two decades and will shake up a first phase that has become too predictable.

“Football needs to be developed in a way that it respects small, medium and big clubs,” said Al-Khelaifi, who is also chairman of the European Club Association, which has nearly 250 members from across the continent.

The expansion of UEFA’s flagship competition has coincided with TV rights for European club competitions jumping more than 40 percent from 2024.

Global deals have been agreed worth EUR15 billion for the three seasons to 2027, or EUR5 billion annually.

Asked about the financial model of clubs like PSG or Manchester City, backed by mega-rich Gulf owners, Al-Khelaifi said “football needs investment to grow” and called out the “disastrous debt” of some clubs.

He criticized clubs which are supposed to belong to the fans but whose supporters “control nothing,” allowing those in power to pass on huge debts to their successors once they have served their terms.

“This is what we should worry about because that’s a big danger,” he added, in a thinly-veiled dig at Barcelona, who remain committed to launching a Super League and have debts in excess of a billion euros.