Will Champions League changes be for the best?

May, 13/2022 - 07:21

UEFA, Europe’s footballing governing body, will I’m sure insist this will benefit the clubs, as extra games obviously mean greater financial gains from a bigger tournament, and also more revenue through ticket sales.

 

Chelsea FC celebrate winning the Champions League in 2021. AFP/VNA Photo

Paul Kennedy

If it ain’t broke, then there’s no need to fix something, right? Wrong, especially when there’s money involved.

Plans were revealed this week for a revamp to the Champions League, Europe’s elite football competition.

In short, the number of teams will increase from 32 to 36, and instead of a group stage, there will be one, single league with each team playing eight matches.

Once that’s over, the top eight teams will go through to the last 16, with the 16 teams finishing between ninth and 24th entering a two-legged play-off with a victory getting them through to the last 16 and the losers dropping into the Europa League.

Teams who finish 25th or below will be eliminated altogether and will not drop down to the Europa League.

As things stand, there will be no change to the knock-out stages, although there was a suggestion instead of two-legged semi-finals, a week-long football festival will be held, with the semis played over one leg at a neutral venue quickly followed by the final a few days later. But for now, that idea is not part of the reforms.

Barring any dramatic U-turn, this new system will come into play from the start of the 2024/25 season.

UEFA, Europe’s footballing governing body, will I’m sure insist this will benefit the clubs, as extra games obviously mean greater financial gains from a bigger tournament, and also more revenue through ticket sales.

More matches clearly mean more money, but this format also acts as somewhat of a safety net for the bigger clubs across the continent. Should they slip up in a match, there will be more games for them to correct it.

This season, Spanish minnows Villareal almost caused an upset, reaching the semi-final stage after beating both Juventus and Bayern Munich on the way, and I wonder, when the new format starts, will we see smaller clubs making it so far in the competition, I’m not so sure.

Although I began this piece stating that if something’s not broken, then there’s no need to fix it, something I stand by, and although I don’t think the tournament is necessarily broken, I do think it has become a little tired, a bit samey.

There was the threat earlier this year of the top clubs breaking away from their domestic leagues altogether and forming a European Super League, a decision met with the ultimate distain by most supporters.

Although it’s worth noting that the idea hasn’t completely gone away. Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madrid are reportedly still keen on reviving the breakaway.

Finally, you have to take into account player well-being. Many of the top managers have complained of game congestion as the season draws to a close, and I’m sure the prospect of playing more games doesn’t exactly fill them with glee.

But for me, as a fan, I want my club to be as successful as humanly possible, and if that means a couple of extra games towards greatness, then so be it. VNS

E-paper