Earlier in the season, a reporter asked Jurgen Klopp if it was true that Liverpool supported an expansion of the Champions League group stages. The question, rather inconveniently, came right in the midst of England’s congested holiday fixture list, which saw Liverpool play in 2 competitions, on 2 continents, in under 24 hours.
Klopp’s response, “Absolute bollocks.”
The Liverpool boss has been a vocal opponent of adding more dates to the fixture list, repeatedly saying how it is difficult for the players to cope, as well as making the final on-field product worse.
Yesterday, the African Cup of Nations confirmed plans to move their tournament back to winter, effectively adding mental, physical, and literal miles to their best players mid-season. And today, UEFA is following suit, with a report from The Times stating that they are close to an agreement with Europe’s top leagues to add an extra 4 matches to the tournament.
The new schedule—which will either add the 4 additional matches in the Group Stages or Knockouts—is slatted to start in 2024.
“The fixtures are like they are,” Klopp said last month. “You all like watching us suffering. That is how it is. Maybe you look concerned but in the end nobody really cares, to be 100% honest.
“We have to deal with it, we speak about it and nobody else really speaks about it. When you discuss it, we don’t know exactly what they want.
“Today I read an article that the top clubs want more games in the Champions League, I am absolutely not involved in these plans. That is absolute bollocks as well. We can talk about everything but we have to cut off games, not put more in.”
The Premier League reportedly opposes the change in schedule, but of course not for the right reasons. The English FA—who are also doing their best to squeeze as many games as possible into a season—are worried about where the extra fixtures will fit into the schedule.
It all points to a larger problem with the modern game, where greed from competing corporate and footballing governing bodies matter far more than the well-being and interests of the players (and far, far more than the interests of the fans).