While football across Europe remains on pause, yesterday saw reports coming out regarding some big changes in the Champions League qualification rules.
The biggest club governing body UEFA seems to have put in motion a plan to radically alter the process of qualifying for the continent’s most prestigious tournament.
In light of these developments, I take an in-depth look at the exact changes which are being discussed and share my thoughts on how this will impact football clubs once we get back to our normal routine.
What UCL Changes Are Being Discussed?
There are a couple of key points to UEFA’s plan which is rumored to effectively start in 2024.
First and foremost, qualification for the competition will be based on domestic rankings running from the 2020/2021 season through to the 2023/2024 campaign.
Meaning that the 32 highest-ranked teams across all European leagues during this period will be the ones to qualify for the 2024/2025 Champions League edition.
The exceptions will come for teams that either win their domestic competition or reach the semi-final stage of the Europa League.
You probably have a lot of questions right now, so let me proceed with my opinion on which teams will benefit from the changes and who will suffer the most.
How Will This Impact Football Clubs?
UEFA has long flirted with the possibility of bringing back a super-league format for the UCL and it seems that we will finally see this happen in 2024.
Naturally, pinning together the highest-ranked teams across three seasons sounds like an exciting spectacle and there’s no doubt that viewership and match attendance will increase even further when that happens.
However, the downside is that the smaller teams will surely be negatively impacted by the innovations. Clubs that can’t compete with the finances of the top outfits can still break the trends in some leagues but they just don’t have the muscle to do it consistently.
Imagine having a superb season and finishing second but missing out on the UCL revenue as the other two seasons saw your performances drop.
This can kill mid-table clubs that put a lot of effort into mounting a serious challenge to the elite every once in a while.
Plus, it will reflect badly on domestic competition as a whole.
For example, the Top Four Race in the Premier League has been great for pushing teams to give their all until the end and some seasons have provided lots of excitement and drama that usually goes down to the wire.
Changing the rules for Champions League qualification will take a lot out of this as teams will not have the same incentive to keep going when they don’t have a chance to win the league outright.
As you can imagine, this will change the complexion of the top domestic competitions in Europe a lot. And not for the better.
It looks to me that UEFA has made another money-driven decision and while clubs like Juventus, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich will be just fine, these changes can have disastrous financial and sporting consequences to weaker teams and, of course, their fanbases.
In this time of uncertainty, it would’ve been much nobler of UEFA to lend a hand to the smaller football organizations but it seems that their voices will not be heard yet again.