Sometimes in sports, for no real reason, the powers in charge decide to completely change up the way their competitions run. In European soccer, the current format of the Champions League looks set to change in the future, but some fear not for the better. There is so much money in European soccer right now that the rich are only getting richer, and some fear it’s going to damage the Champions League. These are the proposed changes that could see millions of soccer fans angered all over the world.
Closing the doors
Each season the best teams from all over Europe get to participate in the Champions League. The problem is that sometimes the established powers such as Manchester United and AC Milan are no longer able to qualify regularly. They are hugely popular franchises but are missing out on the $2.3 billion prize fund and are being left behind by their rivals on the field.
The proposed new Champions League format would see a total of 24 teams guaranteed their spots in the European competition. That means they wouldn’t have to qualify through their league positions and would be awarded places based on merit and historical ranking.
When it will happen
The proposed new format for the Champion League is reportedly going to kick off in the 2024-25 season. There are expected to be groups made up of eight teams which will increase the number of games played throughout the competition. This gives teams a lot more exposure to the financial rewards of playing in the Champions League.
Each club in the competition would be guaranteed to play at least 14 games, which would earn them tens of millions of dollars in extra revenue. The problem is that approach is only serving to increase the wealth gap between European teams.
If teams from certain countries are guaranteed their place in the Champions League, then they are guaranteed to earn themselves a lot of money. Teams from domestic competitions who are unable to qualify for the Champions League will find it increasingly harder to compete with the richer clubs in their division. Then throw in that they can almost never guarantee potential new players the opportunity to play in the Champions League, and it’s going to seriously affect the sport.
A way in?
UEFA’s draft plan for the revamps Champions League suggests that each season four teams will be relegated from their premier competition. Their places won’t be up for grabs through domestic competition though, and it will be the four Europa League semifinalists who get promoted.
If the new Champions League format was introduced last year, the Ajax side that got to the semifinals in 2019 wouldn’t have been allowed to play in the competition to begin with. Taking away qualification through traditional methods removes the chance of any ‘fairy tale’ situations like we had in the 2018-19 season.
The only hope for teams on the fringes of Europe’s elite competition is to do well in the Europa League, but even that might not be enough. UEFA has put a quota of five times maximum coming from any one country. So if Spain has all five of its quota in the Champions League already, and two more Spanish teams play in the Europa League semi finals, they won’t make it.
The biggest criticism of the proposed format is that it is only going to widen the financial gap between elite European teams and the rest. By guaranteeing them Champions League soccer, they can also take more financial risks, knowing that they’re going to be getting millions in TV revenue no matter what.