The UEFA Executive Committee has approved a new format for its European club competitions that will be put into effect in the 2024/25 campaign. The changes are aimed to guide European football in a positive direction that will meet the needs of the stakeholders and the clubs participating in the competitions.
UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin has said:
“This evolved format will still keep alive the dream of any team in Europe to participate in the UEFA Champions League thanks to results obtained on the pitch and it will enable long-term viability, prosperity, and growth for everyone in European football, not just a tiny, self-selected cartel.
As the governing body and responsible stewards of the European game, it is UEFA’s role to safeguard this legacy while leading positive future development of football in Europe for national associations, leagues, clubs, players, and fans at every level. “
The new changes will take the total number of teams in the Champions League from 32 to 36, change the traditional group stage format to a single league set up, and increase the minimum number of games for a club from 6 to 10.
Each club will play against ten different opponents with five of the games being played at home and the other five taking place away. The top eight teams in the league will automatically qualify for the knockout stage and the teams finishing in ninth to 24th place will play in a two-legged play-off, with the winners of each matchup advancing to the round of 16.
This format will also be applied to the other two European competitions. The Europa League will consist of 8 league stage matches and the Europa Conference League will have 6 league stage matches.
Qualification for the Champions League will continue to depend on a club’s final position in the previous season’s domestic league as well as the addition of four slots. UEFA has stated that these four slots will be determined by the following criteria:
- Slot one: One of the additional places will go to the club ranked third in the championship of the association in fifth position in the UEFA national association ranking.
- Slot two: Another will be awarded to a domestic champion by extending from four to five the number of clubs qualifying via the so-called ‘Champions Path’.
- Slots three and four: Awarded to the two clubs with the highest club coefficients that have not qualified automatically for the Champions League’s league stage, but have qualified either for the Champions League qualification phase or the Europa League/the Europa Conference League (due to start in the 2021/22 season).
How does the football community feel about these changes?
To any football fan who understands the recent controversy surrounding the European Super League, it seems as though UEFA’s proposed plans reflect the format of the Super League but the only difference being that UEFA profits off of the change.
Twelve of Europe’s top clubs planned to break from UEFA and their European club competitions to form their own super league, however, protests from UEFA, clubs, footballers, and fans led to these plans to collapse. The main reason behind all of the hate for the idea was that the Super League would financially separate the twelve sides from the rest of the European clubs; it was believed each club that would join the Super League would receive 3.5 billion euros.
While the Champions League has seen many drastic changes across its seventy-six-year history, a majority of the football community believes that the current setup is perfect. The idea of adding more fixtures and the proposal for three extra “historical coefficient” places are clear attempts to favour the richer clubs and create a wider wealth gap. These decisions will separate Europe’s most elite clubs from everyone else more than they already are.
The football community may have had enough power to overthrow the European Super League but it would seem next to impossible to overthrow a change implemented by UEFA itself. The issue of sports capitalism will continue to divide football bodies and fans, however, only time will tell if the greed of UEFA and Europe’s top clubs will overtake the tradition and culture that has embodied football for generations.