LUCERNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - The Champions League final will be moved from its traditional Wednesday night slot and instead be held on a Saturday night, UEFA president Michel Platini announced on Friday.
The move was confirmed following a meeting of UEFA’s executive committee in Lucerne and will come into effect from the 2009-10 season.
“I did not see many children or families in Athens because Wednesday is a school night,” Platini told reporters referring to last season’s final in which AC Milan beat Liverpool.
“Moving it to Saturday should make it more of a family occasion.”
The European Cup final has traditionally been played in midweek since the competition began in 1955-56.
The committee also approved Platini’s proposals to guarantee a greater share of places in the main competition to countries from outside the top-ranking nations.
However, the top three nations, at present Spain, Italy and England, will have three automatic places in the group stage rather than two as at present.
Platini said the changes were unanimously approved by the executive committee and should lead to a more democratic competition.
”There will be more champions in the group stage and there will be more democracy in the competition.
“The Champions League is a great competition and I am delighted with the changes,” he said.
The major change is a split in the qualifying competition to ensure that five champions from 40 lower-ranked nations will reach the Champions League.
A separate qualifying path will be reserved for 15 non-champion teams from the top 15 ranked countries that will also produce five qualifiers.
Those 10 qualifiers will join the 22 already in the competition proper.
The effect of the changes will be to guarantee more champions than at present reach the group stage.
Another major change is that the first knockout round (last 16 teams) will be played over four weeks rather than two as at present, to maximise the television revenue potential.
UEFA are also revamping the UEFA Cup, while the Intertoto Cup will be abolished from the 2009/10 season. Instead, the teams that took part in that competition will play in an expanded UEFA Cup qualifying competition.
The untidy format of the current UEFA Cup competition has been streamlined with a group stage reverting to a regular home-and-away format.
The UEFA Cup final will still be played on Wednesday. As Platini said, “One Saturday is enough.”
Platini’s initial plans to involve domestic cup winners in the competition, were dropped several months ago.
“I believe in that idea but I believe it came too early,” said Platini, adding that a working group would be set up to examine the possible inclusion of cup winners in future versions of the competition.
UEFA will also try and maximise more revenue from the two competitions with the third qualifying round of the Champions League marketed centrally by UEFA.
There will also be greater centralisation of media rights for the UEFA Cup.
(Additional reporting by Mark Ledsom and Kevin Fylan)
Editing by Miles Evans and Ken Ferris