UEFA to computerise Champions League draw from next season

UEFA has been forced to almost completely computerise the UEFA Champions League draw from next season as a result of its new format.

The competition is being expanded to 36 teams from 2024-25, with all teams in one league table. Each club will play eight games, four at home and four away — and draw is needed to work out the fixtures.

There will be four pots of nine teams, ordered by UEFA’s five-year performance coefficient, with a club facing two opponents from each pot.

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UEFA says that drawing each club’s opponents manually — as was the case under the old format, featuring high-profile former players — would take up to four hours due to the complex considerations within the draw.

Clubs won’t be able to draw teams from their own country, unless there are too many in one pot which would make a fixture deadlock unavoidable. This would only affect leagues with four or more clubs in the competition, though UEFA believes it will be able to avoid it next season.

It means the only manual aspect will be the ceremonial part of choosing the team whose fixtures are to be decided. The computer will then allocate that team’s opponents automatically from all four pots, and decide which fixtures are home and away.

For instance, if pot one features: Manchester City, Sevilla, Barcelona, Napoli, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Benfica, Feyenoord, Real Madrid

UEFA will only draw out one team, such as Barcelona. The fixtures would then be displayed one by one by computer draw.

UEFA insists that its computer systems are robust and audited by Ernst & Young to underpin fairness.

It was also confirmed that there would be two, limited knockout-round draws — one at the end of the league phase at the end of January, and another at the end of February for the round of 16. However, this would only decide which side of the bracket teams fall on as it will be largely pre-determined by positions in the league phase. There will be no draw for the quarterfinals and semifinals, which will already be set in the bracket

The maximum numbers of clubs in the Champions League from one association will be seven, with it being hypothetically possible for the Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 to have 11 — though that would require a league to win all three competitions and those clubs not finish in a European place domestically.