In the coming years, it’s possible that the Champions League drastically changes to keep the world’s biggest big clubs happy. The European Club Association, the UEFA-recognized body representing professional clubs and chaired by Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli, met in Switzerland last month to discuss some format changes.
Firstly, it was proposed that games will be held on weekends. Secondly, Agnelli is in favor of restructuring the group stage to four groups of eight instead of eight groups of four. That means 14 group games per club, instead of six.
But most controversially, it was proposed that only clubs with historical success should be allowed in, removing the requirement to qualify through the domestic leagues. Some members also requested that this closed system feature a promotion and relegation between divisions, which would mean involvement for more clubs, and more games. It’s essentially a breakaway European Super League.
The changes would come in from the 2024-25 season, when the current agreement with UEFA expires. But don’t get too concerned about this closed system: all 20 Premier League clubs last month unanimously voted against the proposals.
Although it sounds like this was done to protect English soccer’s integrity, it may really be a financial decision. Premier League TV rights will be worth £9bn over the next three years — far more than any other European league.
So they don’t want to vote for a plan that would move domestic games, reduce them, or remove teams from the league, thus threatening those domestic TV rights. But just because these sweeping changes were pooh-poohed, doesn’t mean no changes will happen at all. Premier League clubs, after all, don’t have a veto on the decision.
But regardless, the discussions suggest some changes will be made: we will probably see Champions League games on the weekend in the coming years—after all, they already moved the final to the weekend.
It may also be the case that the groups are reorganized, or more teams invited, to create more games (and big pay days) for the clubs. The idea of eliminating qualification and closing off the competition for the big clubs seems too drastic, but the biggest clubs have so much power, that the threat of a breakaway European Super League is never far away.
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