Controversial plans to award guaranteed Champions League places to ‘legacy’ clubs that have performed well in the competition before have been abandoned by UEFA.
The original proposals caused uproar when first revealed, with fans of the beautiful game accusing the governing body of trying to protect the richest clubs and create a ‘super league’ by proxy.
UEFA had planned to ringfence two places in each season’s Champions League for clubs that hadn’t qualified by right through their domestic performance, but who had enjoyed success on the continent within the previous five seasons.
The allocation would have been awarded based upon the club’s UEFA ranking, but critics claim that would create a safety net for football’s fallen giants and limit the number of places available to clubs that had actually earned the right to compete in the Champions League.
Happily, UEFA have seen sense and after a meeting of their executive committee in Vienna, confirmed that the proposals have been abandoned.
Their president, Aleksander Ceferin, clarified the governing body’s position, and indirectly referenced the backlash against the ‘legacy’ nonsense.
“UEFA has clearly shown today that we are fully committed to respecting the fundamental values of sport and to defending the key principle of open competitions, with qualification based on sporting merit,” he said.
However, UEFA has confirmed that they are pushing on with their planned expansion of the Champions League, which will see the competition enhanced from 32 teams to 36 in time for the 2024/25 campaign.
Two of those extra places will be awarded to the countries that collectively performed the best in the three continental competitions in the previous season – meaning that the side which finishes fifth in the Premier League could qualify for the Champions League if their contemporaries have been successful in European competition.
Based on performances of English clubs in recent years, in four of the last five seasons the Premier League would have been handed a fifth berth in the continent’s premier tournament.
The other two extra spots would be handed to the team that finishes third in the domestic league of the association currently in fifth position in UEFA’s coefficient – that is, at the time of writing, France.
And the fourth extra place will be awarded to a domestic league winner from the so-called ‘champions path’, which is currently the teams that don’t automatically qualify for the group phase and instead have to play one or more Champions League qualifiers.
While UEFA’s flagship event will be expanded, they have promised that clubs won’t have to play ten group games – as was the case in their original blueprints for their reimaging of the competition.
They will, however, have to play eight group games – two more than is currently required – in a move that will add even more scheduling woes for high-flying clubs that are active in a number of different competitions.
However, the League Cup will not be scrapped to make way for the expanded Champions League – that’s according to EFL chief Rick Parry at least.