In Brief

Sport shorts: Champions League expansion plan to be agreed

News and reactions from the world of sport, featuring Joachim Low and the Lions women’s team

1

Football 

Agnelli: Premier League may need to reduce teams for UCL

Expansion plans for the Uefa Champions League (UCL) may have a knock-on effect for the English Premier League.  

Proposals to increase the number of teams in the UCL from 32 to 36 could be agreed by the end of the month and lead to a “radical change” in the group phase of the competition, the BBC says. Currently, eight groups of four play six games each, but under the new format all teams would play ten matches in the autumn as part of a “Swiss system” within a 36-team league.

European Clubs’ Association chairman Andrea Agnelli, who is also chairman of Italian giants Juventus, believes reducing the 20-club Premier League would be one way to accommodate an expanded UCL format, Sky Sports reports.

“We have countries such as England with the maximum number of games at 53 or 54, Germany is 43,” he said. “So it’s having a balanced competitive landscape. We do think that currently, for competitive balance purposes, 20 teams in leagues - it’s not just the big leagues, but in many leagues - there are too many. And so there is an overall element that could actually be worked out altogether in the interests of everyone.”

2

Rugby union 

Feasibility study launched over women’s Lions potential 

It has been revealed there are plans to launch a British & Irish Lions women’s team - should a feasibility study find it viable. The Guardian reports that the Lions have taken the “first step” towards setting up a women’s side and the study - funded by sponsor Royal London - will explore potential opponents and dates and is expected to present a “strong positive case”. 

Lions managing director Ben Calveley said: “The feasibility study is an important first step in determining whether a women’s Lions team could be established, and we are very grateful to have Royal London’s support and investment.”

3

Formula 1 

Fernando Alonso

Alonso in ‘best shape’ ahead of his return to F1 

After a two-year absence Fernando Alonso is gearing up for his return to Formula 1. The two-time world champion, who will race for the rebranded Alpine team, is recovering well after a cycling crash in February and will be ready for testing in Bahrain starting on Friday. 

“I feel great and in the best shape I’ve ever been before both physically and mentally,” said the 39-year-old Spaniard. 

Alpine team boss Laurent Rossi added: “Fernando is doing very well. He had a bad accident. A bike accident is rarely something that goes easy, but he was lucky and he ended up only suffering from his jaw. So besides the necessary surgery and care, the rest is totally fine. Fernando is completely fit. He is totally operational.”

4

Football 

Riise to coach Team GB at Olympics 

Hege Riise, the current interim England manager, is being lined up to coach the Team GB women’s side at this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo. The Norwegian’s appointment “will be confirmed later this week”, the BBC says. 

Riise, 51, won an Olympic gold medal playing for Norway in 2000 and was an assistant coach when the USA won gold at London 2012. 

Phil Neville had been set to lead Team GB in Tokyo, but the former Lionesses boss joined Inter Miami in January. 

5

Football 

Joachim Low

Low to step down from Germany job after Euros

The German Football Association has announced that head coach Joachim Low will leave his role after this summer’s European Championship. 

Low, 61, was appointed in 2006 and led his country to glory at the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil. He did have a contract until after the 2022 World Cup but has agreed an early release. 

“I take this step very consciously, full of pride and enormous gratitude, but at the same time continue to be very motivated when it comes to the upcoming European Championship tournament,” he said.

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