If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it….unless there’s money to be made.
That must be behind the thinking of Andrea Agnelli, the chairman of Juventus and the European Clubs’ Association (ECA), who wants to overhaul the Champions League in time for the 2024/25 season.
Chief among the Italian’s plans are for an increase in the number of teams from 32 to 36, which would necessitate a change in the format of the competition.
Agnelli has not revealed how the four extra teams would be decided, but the rumour is that he would allocate an extra berth to each of the four highest nations in UEFA’s coefficients – of which England, and thus the Premier League, feature.
And so if the ECA’s proposals are signed off by UEFA, the team finishing fifth in the Premier League would qualify for the Champions League.
The ideas have been drawn up with Edwin van der Sar, who wants to get rid of the current group stage format and replace it with a more open format in which each team plays ten games against sides of varying strength based upon their UEFA ranking.
Points would be earned in the normal fashion and an overall league table published – those towards the summit would qualify for the knockout phase of the tournament after Christmas.
The main issue with increasing the number of teams is that the schedule would become even more cramped, with more midweek games played. There would be extra demand for squad depth – the big guns would likely try to hoard even more players, while the risk of fatigue-related injuries also increases.
Agnelli has also suggested that the regularity of international breaks would also be maintained, with ‘one third internationals and two thirds domestic’ his ideal make-up for the season.
And in one of his most radical plans yet, Agnelli has suggested elite teams could be BANNED from signing players from one another.
“We could think of a double path transfer system, where clubs qualifying for specific tiers of international competition wouldn’t be allowed to buy each other’s players,” he said.
“That would improve the indirect solidarity to other clubs and mean no triple-figure transfers amongst Champions League participating clubs. These are elements we are discussing.”
It may all sound like hokum, but note that the ECA is the only independent body made up of UEFA member clubs that is actually recognised by the authority.
Does This Spell the End for the European Super League?
Another concept that seemed like a pipedream was the European Super League (ESL).
However, the ESL is actually closer to fulfilment than most realise – with some heavyweights from the worlds of football and business throwing their power behind the bid.
It would have been a breakaway tournament that existed beyond UEFA’s control, and rumours suggest that as many as 16 teams – including, according to Football Leaks, Liverpool, Manchester City, Barcelona and Real Madrid – had agreed in principle to be the inaugural members of the ESL. Notably, these would be considered ‘core’ members and be immune to relegation for up to 20 years.
The proposed changes to the Champions League might just kill off the European Super League. More UCL games means more revenue for those involved – the bottom line here – without necessarily diminishing the prestige of the competition.
The ECA’s proposals are eyebrow-raising, to say the least, but they may just get the nod from UEFA.