The future of the League Cup is under threat as a result of the new Champions League format confirmed this week as the changes will ensure that European football dominates the midweek calendar before Christmas from the 2024-25 season.
While the group stage will only increase from six to eight matches those fixtures will be played across 10 weeks each autumn, with both the Europa League and Conference League being given an exclusive week of games, meaning that England’s European competitors may be unable to take part in the League Cup.
EFL executives are exploring a number of options to salvage their 62-year-old competition, which include permitting the big clubs to field development sides until the semi-final stage and demanding significant from the Premier League.
The League Cup’s future is under threat because of changes to the Champions League format
The Champions League group stage will increase from six to eight matches from 2024
Under the terms of the tripartite agreement signed by the Premier League, FA and Football League when the rebranded top-flight was founded in 1992, all of its clubs are contractually obliged to enter the League Cup every season, so they would be in breach of contract if they failed to compete.
In addition to the loss of prestige the absence of the Big Six from the League Cup would be a hammer blow to the EFL’s finances, as the competition contributes around £80million-a-year to their TV deal with Sky Sports, which expires when the expanded Champions League begins in 2024.
The value of the next broadcast contract would collapse without the top teams playing in the League Cup, which will fuel their demands for compensation.
One option could be to allow big clubs to field development sides until the semi-finals
Talks over the future of the League Cup are likely to be bundled into negotiations over the proposed new independent regulator and the EFL’s call for a financial reset of the sport.
EFL chairman Rick Parry has proposed that the top four divisions merge their TV rights with a 75 per cent/25 per cent split in favour of the top-flight, which the Premier League are resisting.
The FA Cup will not be affected by the Champions League expansion as the big clubs do not enter until January, but with the calendar under pressure there will be no return of replays after the third-round stage.