Champions League scraps 7.45pm kick-offs as Uefa announces changes to European competitions
Uefa have announced changes to the Champions League and Europa League starting from next season, including staggered kick-off times.
The Champions League has always kicked off at 7.45pm (GMT/BST) but from the 2018/19 season they will start at either 5.55pm or 8pm – similar to how the Europa League functions.
All four English teams will be given direct passage to the Champions League Group Stages, as will teams from Italy, Germany and Spain as well as the current European Cup holders and the Europa League winners. Two teams from those four nations, plus France, will also qualify directly for the Europa League.
That means from next season, the top six will all be guaranteed to be in the Group Stage of either the Champions League or the Europa League, without having to win a two-legged qualifier as in previous years.
In total there will be more automatic qualifiers next season than in previous seasons, with 26 going directly into the group stage as opposed to 22 this season. That means only six teams will gain entry to the Champions League via the qualifying round, compared to 10 this season but it will remain as a mini knockout tournament.
Any team eliminated from Champions League qualifying will be given the opportunity to qualify for the Europa League. There will be 10 sides entering the Europa League via this route, while 17 teams will qualify for the competition directly (through domestic league positions) and a further 21 clubs reaching the Group Stages through the normal qualifying route.