It is widely expected that UEFA will announce a complete overhaul of the Champions League on Wednesday in a bid to ward off a European Super League.
The raft of changes, which would introduced in 2024, include the end to the traditional group phase format – instead, the first stage of the tournament would see each team play ten games apiece.
The Champions League would also expand in size to 36 teams, with two ‘wild cards’ available for teams from the highest UEFA co-efficient, which is essentially the ranking system that the authority uses to ranks clubs, that have not automatically qualified.
It would ultimately mean that teams from lower ranked countries would have less access to the Champions League, while enabling the continent’s big leagues to be represented by teams that finish as low as sixth or seventh in their domestic competition.
The new agreement, which is said to have been devised by Manchester United and Netherlands legend Edwin van der Sar, is likely to be ratified today and announced to the public tomorrow.
What Will the New Champions League Look Like?
As mentioned, the standard group phase looks set to be replaced by a wider-ranging pool system, in which all teams will play ten games.
They will accrue points as normal and an overall league table will be drawn up, with the sides finishing first down to eighth progressing directly to the knockout phase. Those ranked 9th-24th will enter a play-off system to see who goes on to the last 16.
It’s complex, convoluted and could create significant scheduling problems, with the extra games meaning that domestic cup competitions will likely be devalued even further. The extra requirements may mean the big clubs horde the best players too in order to add depth to their squad.
What Does the New Format Mean for English Football?
With more Premier League sides engaged in the Champions League – and with more games to be played – it’s likely that the EFL Cup and the FA Cup will become even more of an inconvenience.
You wonder how the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool, not exactly blessed with youth teams overflowing with talent, will go about preparing their squads for the increased workload. More players will be signed, you expect, and thus deplete the talent pool slightly further down the pyramid.
Four more gameweeks would be required to complete the new ‘pool’ stage of the competition, and that would mean that the Saturday-Wednesday carousel would turn with even more regularity – increased injuries, as a result, are likely.
An alternative would be to allow clubs in the Champions League to field Under-23 teams in the EFL Cup and the FA Cup – that would solve some of the scheduling issues, but it doesn’t exactly help an already difficult task of trying to legitimise those beleaguered competitions.
Some are even calling for the EFL Cup to be scrapped altogether, however a significant amount of revenue from that is divested to Football League clubs – plus the possibility that a lower league outfit could draw a top-flight side and benefit from increased ticket sales.
Either way, this new Champions League set up makes very little sense….well, to everyone apart from those profiting from it, that is.