In a staggeringly tumultuous week for European football, 12 of the continent’s biggest teams broke away from the UEFA Champions League to create a ‘European Super League’, only to then reverse their decision within 48 hours.
The news that these clubs, including Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, Real Madrid and Barcelona, were forming their own European league was met with widespread criticism and condemnation, not just from fans but prime ministers, presidents and even Prince William.
Bets on for the Champions League
Those sides are now set to return to the fold of the UEFA Champions League, with sports betting website 888Sports still listing Manchester City as a strong favourite, with odds of winning coming in at 2.3/1.
The huge clubs will be subject to the changes UEFA proposed to its European competitions – which have now officially been approved – that will come into effect in 2024.
These recent developments have significant impacts not only on the Champions League itself, but also domestic leagues within Europe.
As an open competition, the Champions League, in theory, is available to any club in the top-flight league of their country. This aspiration and the potential for drama is one of the key drivers of football’s global appeal.
Open competition, to a certain extent, democratises the sport and gives smaller clubs the chance to find success and – crucially – earn larger financial rewards and investments which will, in turn, benefit them in future seasons.
Without this potential for upward mobility, football loses a lot of its intrigue.
Let’s Talk Specifics
With that being said, UEFA will be implementing major changes to the Champions League from 2024 onwards. First of all, the number of teams that can qualify is increasing from 32 to 36.
Instead of the competition starting with group stages, all 36 teams will first be put into a league and each will have to play 10 other teams, earning three points for a win and one for a draw.
As standard, from here 16 teams will progress to the next round. The top eight teams will automatically qualify, with those who finish between ninth and 16th being seeded in a playoff draw, meaning they will face a team placed 17th to 24th. Teams who finish 25th or lower will be eliminated. The eight teams who prevail in the playoffs progress to the final 16, where the competition maintains its standard knockout format.
For fans, this means an extra 100 Champions League games to watch and a much higher chance of Europe’s biggest clubs facing each other earlier in the competition.
So Let’s Talk Money
This, in turn, will bring much more money to an already wildly lucrative league. On top of fans paying to attend games, the broadcast rights for the Champions League will become much more expensive for television companies, providing more income for the League.
The revenue from television rights partly makes up the prize money for the Champions League, which is expected to rise with these new changes.
15% of Champions League revenue is distributed based on the “market pool” – the size of the TV market in a club’s domestic league. For Premier League clubs, for example, this is a lot.
A further 20% of revenue gets dished out based on “coefficient ranking,” which essentially means how a club has performed in Europe over the past 10 years. If they’ve done well, they get more money.
Many are arguing that this will only make the rich clubs richer and the poorer clubs even poorer. If Champions League TV rights go up, rights for the Premier League will go down as a consequence, which will hit the smaller clubs who don’t qualify for Europe the hardest.
Meanwhile, the bigger clubs in the Champions League will massively benefit from more games being played in that competition.
Some critics have also pointed to the adjustments in the Champions League qualification process that will come into play from 2024. The first of the additional four places in the League will go to the club ranked third in the championship of the association in fifth position in the UEFA national association ranking.
Another will be awarded to a domestic champion by extending the number of clubs qualifying via the so-called ‘Champions Path’ from four to five.
The other two slots will go to clubs with the highest “club coefficients” that have not qualified automatically for the Champions League. This means teams that have performed well in Europe over the past decade will automatically qualify, regardless of where they finish in their domestic league, provided they didn’t make the top four.
It is these two final slots causing the most derision, as they could rob smaller clubs of the opportunity to qualify for the Champions League.
Finally, the 100-game increase in Champions League activity will enlarge the competition’s footprint and impact on other cups and leagues. Teams will need to be much more selective in where they focus their priorities and may even pull out of smaller competitions altogether.
The 2024 Champions League changes are no small issue, and they will certainly take some getting used to. For some clubs, the changes will bring in more money while fans will be treated to 100 more games among Europe’s best teams. Time will tell what long-lasting impacts this has on the sport, though.