‘Not correct’ that Champions League final four could qualify for next tournament
One of the key groups shaping the future of European club football says it will oppose Champions League semi-finalists qualifying for the following season’s competition in any new format.
European Leagues, the umbrella body which represents more than 900 clubs in 32 professional leagues across the continent, will hold its first working group meeting with UEFA next Wednesday on how the international club competitions will look from 2024-25 onwards.
It has been reported that UEFA supports the idea of the Champions League’s final four qualifying for the next season’s competition, rather than just the winners as is the case currently.
European Leagues chairman Lars-Christer Olsson, himself a former chief executive of UEFA, said that would be a red line for his organisation.
“What we think is OK is the system as it is today,” he said.
“If the question was, for example, that the semi-finalists in the Champions League should be qualified for next year’s Champions League, we don’t think that is correct. Definitely not.”
One format reported to be under consideration is to replace the existing group phase with a 32 or 36-team league, in which teams play 10 matches against other sides on a seeded basis in a so-called ‘Swiss system’, with the top 16 progressing to the knockout phase from February onwards.
That would mean an additional four matches in the autumn compared to now, something Olsson said was “possible”.
“I think it could be possible to squeeze another four dates into the calendar if we can see what kind of effect it is having on national team matches and other things, but it’s too early to say now, it needs to be part of our negotiations,” he said.
A separate European Leagues working group is meeting with UEFA next Thursday to continue negotiations on the financial distribution model for club competition revenues for the 2021-24 cycle, which were stalled in March by the coronavirus pandemic.
European Leagues favours an increase in solidarity payments to clubs not participating in European competition, while holding the share of revenue for clubs in the Champions League group phase at the same level.
When asked whether that was optimistic to expect the big clubs to expect no increase, amid renewed reports of a European Super League, Olsson said: “When it comes to the breakaway matter I’ve been in football a bit too long perhaps, but I have been having these discussions every third year since the mid-90s.
“I think the breakaway alternative is already dead, because there have been very clear messages coming from UEFA and from individual clubs.
“Generally I think a private league in Europe is probably not going to be successful.”
European Leagues’ approach to the revenue distribution talks is informed by its Financial Landscape report, which will be presented for ratification at its General Assembly on Friday.
It feels that distribution has generally been going in the wrong direction in the 2016-2019 cycle, pointing to the fact that European club competition revenue is having a distortive impact in some places.
It highlighted the example of Ukraine, where 58 per cent of the total revenue in the top flight came from European competition revenue, and out of that, 95 per cent of it was shared between just three clubs.