Uefa goes its own way, but the route is still the same: more money for the big clubs

By Tony Attwood

It seems that Uefa has decided to join Fifa in the battle of expansion, for as Fifa has been pitching for a world cup every two years, and has taken over the running of the Confederation of African Football, now Uefa, having seen off the threat of the bi-annual world cup and the Super League, has retaliated with its own expansion plans.

It has already had one plan for expansion rejected, which involved having clubs gaining places in the Champions League on the basis of performances across a number of years (thus ensuring that Barcelona, Liverpool etc are still in the League even when in a run of poor seasons (such as Liverpool 2010-2016) when they had not qualified in the normal way – something that would have benefitted Arsenal as the club with the second-longest continuous run in the Champions League. 

Now they have come up with another plan.   And it seems it will be going ahead in 2024, giving us Super League but with a different name and under the control of Uefa, rather than under the control of the clubs themselves.

The new scheme will start in 2024, and will get rid of the group stages of the Champs League and replace them by a single league of 36 clubs.

What this means is not only more clubs in the League but also more games against other big clubs – again eating into the time set aside for domestic matches but earning ever more from TV rights.   So in the group stages clubs will play eight games rather than six.   I would suggest that it is a fair bet that after a year or two that will have crept up to ten, and later 12.

It will indeed be the Super League, because clubs will not be entering on merit in terms of last season’s performance, but instead through a complex set of mathematical ratios which (unlike much simpler things such as the league table) can be tweaked to ensure the right clubs get in, even if they had a poor domestic season, the year before.

So starting in 2024 all the teams that get to the league stage will play eight games, each against a different opponent, with four played at home, four away.  Initially, the idea was to have ten games, but to get the proposal through this was reduced to eight – although there is every likelihood this will go back to ten in a year or two, with Uefa citing financial pressure from the clubs as the reason for the change.

Football Supporters Europe have been lobbying against this move as it clearly is a different approach to the same aim – expanding the control of Uefa and reducing the importance of the domestic leagues upon which football has been based since 1919 when the Southern League in England gave up its pretensions of being a rival to the Football League, and its clubs started the process of joining the Football League, thus creating the Third Division (South) followed a year later by the Third Division (North).

FSE Executive Director Ronan Evain said in a statement, “For the first time, the position of fans has directly influenced the outcome of a major reform of European club competitions. Although it is not the one we wanted, we avoided the worst-case scenario and effectively challenged other stakeholders.

“We would like to thank each and every fans’ group that took the time to lobby their respective clubs and governing bodies to do better and helped to make a difference.”

The problem is of course that with the operation up and running, clubs will immediately spend the extra money they get, and run up further debts beyond that.  Meanwhile, clubs not in the new Super League will drop further behind financially, and if they do manage to get a place in the league will quickly drop out or over-exert themselves financially and then either face ruin or be bought out by another billionaire.  It really doesn’t seem to me to be the right way to go.

In fact, one could argue that football in England is already in a lot of trouble in this regard.  The clubs in the Championship have often spent vast sums trying to get into the Premier League, and then vast sums more to try and stay there.  This has been mitigated to some degree by the success of a different model adopted to varying degrees by clubs like Norwich, Fulham, Bournemouth etc of not spending a fortune on entering the Premier League but instead using the additional income on the club at large, and expecting to go back down, and then with luck come up again.

FSE is congratulating itself on modifying the original proposals, but I rather suspect the juggernaut is still running down the same track and in the long run FSE will have simply held the gate open.

2 Replies to “Uefa goes its own way, but the route is still the same: more money for the big clubs”

  1. From ESPN :-
    How will they decide the fixtures?

    UEFA is expected to create four pots of nine teams, almost certainly based upon the five-year club coefficient. Each team will play two teams from each pot (one home, one away) to create an eight-match fixture list of roughly equal strength.

    More “big matches” are created by the teams in the top pots being drawn against each other, which wasn’t possible under the current system.

    For instance, the teams in Pot 1 would draw two other clubs from Pot 1, 2, 3 and 4. Teams from the same association still cannot play each other in the group stage.

    This is how the seeding pots would look, based on a 36-team Champions League intake using the new system and last season’s final league tables.

    Pot 1: Chelsea, Villarreal, Atletico Madrid, Manchester City, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, Lille, Sporting CP, Real Madrid

    Pot 2: Barcelona, Juventus, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Sevilla, Borussia Dortmund, FC Porto, Ajax

    Pot 3: Shakhtar Donetsk, Lyon, RB Leipzig, FC Salzburg, Benfica, Atalanta, Zenit St Petersburg, Besiktas, Dynamo Kyiv

    Pot 4: Dinamo Zagreb, Club Brugge, Young Boys, Leicester City, AC Milan, Real Sociedad, Malmo, VfL Wolfsburg, Sheriff Tiraspol

    So, Premier League champions Manchester City could have a “Swiss Model” fixture list of: Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Benfica, FC Salzburg, Young Boys, Sheriff Tiraspol.
    So who goes through to the knockout rounds?

    The top eight go directly through to the round of 16 and will be seeded in the draw. Clubs placed 9th to 24th will go into two-legged playoffs, with the winners going through as unseeded teams and the losers going out. There will be no dropdown of teams into the Europa League knockout rounds as of 2024-25. Clubs ranked 25th to 36th will be eliminated from Europe immediately.

    It means the team ranked 24th in the group stage, only good enough for an unseeded place in Europa League under the current system, could actually go on to be European champions.

    The competition then returns to the traditional format from the round of 16 onwards.
    What about the Europa League and the Europa Conference League?

    Both competitions will also switch to the Swiss Model from 2024, and will increase in size from 32 teams to 36.

    There will be eight group-stage games in the Europa League, but only six in the Europa Conference League.

    There will again be playoffs to reach the round of 16, but no drop down for the losers from the Europa League into the Europa Conference League either.

    This is good news for the teams that took place in the group stage. One of the four Europa League semifinalists this season dropped down from the Champions League, and two of the Europa Conference League final four were in the Europa League group stage.

    As my granny used to say , Clear as mud.

  2. Another competition to avoid. Added to International friendlies, the ****World Cup and increasingly the **** Champions League. As a football fan I do perfectly well with the Premier League and the FA Cup and don’t need anymore acronym ‘competitions’ to suck more money and attention from my core interest. They’re all corrupt. There is enough of that to go around with the FA and PGMOL.

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