Premier League clubs have unanimously opposed proposals for changes to the UEFA Champions League format which would increase the number of games during the first half of the season and also wipe out end-of-season races for qualification to Europe’s top continental competition. The changes were being proposed for implementation during the 2024-25 season, but clubs in England’s top flight have banded together to reject the plans. With England having four of the final eight in this season’s tournament, as well as the Premier League’s standing as one of the top five domestic leagues in Europe, the clubs have vowed to work together to “protect the Premier League”.
Some proposals include changing the group stage to include four groups of eight teams as opposed to the current layout, which has eight groups of four. This would increase the fixture commitments of any competing clubs by giving them no less than sixteen European games to play before Christmas, as opposed to six at present. This would clearly affect the smooth operation of the league, which already suffers from some serious congestion during the early stages with regards to league and Carabao Cup schedules. Such a situation means fans often bet their DraftKings Promo code 2019 on the bigger sides slipping up against mid-table teams.
Another change is said to have been the qualification criteria, which would be based on historical success rather than performance level during the previous season. This would effectively wipe out the exciting aspect of the race for the top four, and would essentially see the same teams battle in Europe’s top club competition season in, season out.
A meeting between the chairmen of clubs in the Premier League took place on Friday, after which a very rare joint statement was released representing the views of all Premier League clubs. The statement read: “All clubs unanimously agreed it is inappropriate for European football bodies to create plans that would alter the structures, calendar and competitiveness of the domestic game and will work together to protect the Premier League. In England, football plays an important role in our culture and everyday life. Millions of fans attend matches across the country, with allegiances and local rivalries often passed down through generations. We have a fantastic combination of competitive football and committed fans that we will vigorously defend.
“The structures of domestic football are determined by leagues and their respective national associations. We will now work with the FA and other leagues to ensure that European football bodies understand the importance of this, and their obligation to maintain the health and sustainability of domestic league football.”
Fixture congestion has famously been high on the menu of many a manager’s Christmas concerns, with Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson having both maintained several years back that the issue was getting worse. Such a large number of fixtures also affects sides lower down the Premier League pecking order who, in many cases, do not possess such squad depth to allow complete rotation of starting lineups in order to keep their players as fresh as possible. This arguably works to favour clubs with higher playing staff levels (and often more disposable cash to sustain a larger squad), but while it could be argued that this move could help level the playing field somewhat domestically if qualification by way of league position is removed (instead focusing on historical success), there would arguably be even fewer targets for the less-fancied sides to aim for.
There is a meeting in May between UEFA and the European Club Association – headed up by Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli, who is thought to have been one of the primary supporters of the proposals. With weekend fixtures also included in the potential new format, it is clear that this could seriously affect not just the English league, but other top European leagues as well – and could even be seen as the first stage in moving towards a European Super League, with the competition being closed off to all apart from the most successful sides from each nation.