A year after the European Super League’s botched start, UEFA missed an opportunity to impose its own authority on the game.
A year ago, 12 clubs threatened to turn the premier league of European football into a closed shop.
It was a farce that eventually forced the majority of clubs involved into an embarrassing relegation amid fan protests and dismay that a meritocracy felt it was overwhelmed to qualify for European competition.
While Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus remain committed to the idea of a Super League plan – albeit without the closed shop element – it appears the Champions League is here to stay, at least for now.
But a year later, UEFA is no longer the great savior of football that it claimed to be in the fight against the Super League. Instead, they pushed through format changes in the Champions League that no fan asked for – and also placated underperforming big clubs by giving them alternative routes into the competition based on historical performances.
The new format benefits both UEFA and, by extension, big clubs too, thanks to the fact that an expanded tournament and more games – four extra teams have been added and each club will now play 10 group games – means they can generate more broadcast revenue to be very little at risk in the redesigned group stage.
Do you agree with the changes in the Champions League? Give your opinion in our Super League poll.
With all 36 teams in a large group, the top eight teams qualify directly for the round of 16, while clubs finishing between ninth and 24th then go through a knockout round to decide who also finishes last 16 is coming. That means only 12 teams will exit the competition in the group stage, down from the current 18, despite four other clubs being involved.
Gone are the days when Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund left the tournament to less top-flight teams, as was the case this year. Instead, we’re faced with a procession of dead gummies whose teams likely know where they’ll end up in the giant group after just a few games.
Any group stage shocks, like Real Madrid’s loss to Sheriff Tiraspol this season, will no longer matter as much as more games mean far more chances for coveted teams to pick up points.
UEFA claim the new format will deliver more big group matches, with top clubs playing each other more regularly. Aside from a handful of sixes that could decide whether a side goes straight to the round of 16 or faces an extra knockout round, these matches between top clubs will effectively be glorified friendlies in which clubs have to be spectacularly poor to make these matches must-win games.
The argumentation of the governing body also fails in two places. Firstly, more games between these top clubs with less on the pitch makes the really important games seem a little less unique, and secondly, by allowing the big clubs entry into the tournament even if they don’t qualify, UEFA is actively doing that competition less competitive.
Take Manchester United for example. The Red Devils are having a sad season in the Premier League and currently sit seventh, which based on their historic performance in the competition, depending on who wins the FA Cup, could be enough to earn them a place in next year’s Champions League to secure.
While United may not deprive any other team of a place in the tournament due to UEFA’s expansion decision, their performances this season have shown that they are not worthy of playing in the Champions League. So on paper the match between Manchester United and Real Madrid may be a clash between two of Europe’s biggest clubs, but in reality United’s performances against similarly quality opponents this season show it would be a one-sided affair.
These reforms were first unveiled by UEFA but also seen as a necessary compromise to appease Europe’s biggest clubs, particularly those outside of England, who were tired of competing with the Premier League’s wealth.
However, after being relegated to the Super League, UEFA had the upper hand and were able to scrap the changes in favor of a fan-supported format. You missed that opportunity and we will all pay the price in a lower odds tournament.
Do you agree with the changes in the Champions League? Give your opinion in our Super League poll above and share your thoughts in the comments below.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/uefa-champions-league-super-league-26696524 Man Utd perfect example of UEFA missing out on unique Super League opportunity – David Byrom