Recent media reports suggest that UEFA is considering abandoning plans to expand the Champions League and safeguard places for big teams. FSE has opposed the proposals from the beginning. In this article, we explain why.
Just a day after the launch of the ill-fated European Super League, UEFA’s Executive Committee voted to dramatically revamp the Champions League.
The new look competition will commence in the 2024-25 season and involve 36 clubs—four more than under the current format. In addition, the traditional group stage will be replaced by a single league table, with each team playing 10 games instead of six.
FSE is firmly opposed to these plans, which we believe are deeply flawed. They will not solve any of the challenges facing fans specifically and the game more generally. In fact, they are likely to make them much worse.
As we have consistently argued, more games means more inequality within and between leagues, more pressure on already strained schedules, more demands on fans’ limited time and money, and more boring, no-stakes football.
Club Coefficients and Qualification
One of the most pressing problems of the new format is the inclusion of a ‘safety net’ for wealthy clubs that fail to qualify.
According to UEFA, two of the four additional slots will be “[a]warded to the…clubs with the highest club coefficients that have not qualified automatically for the Champions League’s league stage, but have qualified either for the Champions League qualification phase or the Europa League/Europa Conference League.”
In other words, from 2024-25 onwards, some clubs will qualify for Europe’s hallmark competition not on the basis of sporting merit, but on account of their past achievements. The English press have highlighted a good example of the potential impact of this change, pointing out that Tottenham Hotspur would have qualified for this season’s Champions League despite finishing seventh in the Premier League.
Rewarding Failure and Privileging the Elite
The proposed access list, then, is anti-competitive by design, and in our opinion, represents a clear attempt to reward underperforming elite clubs at the expense of all others—a remarkable objective considering many of them took a wrecking ball to the European game less than six months ago.
Together with other aspects of the new format, it poses an obvious and immediate danger to the European model of sport, which, for all its faults, is based on popular and time-tested principles such as sporting merit, promotion and relegation, qualification to transnational competitions via domestic success, and financial solidarity.
As such, FSE is calling on UEFA to reset the whole reform process and establish a meaningful consultation mechanism that incorporates all stakeholders, including fans and their representatives.
Commenting on the future of European club competitions, FSE Board member Martha Gens said:
“When it comes to qualifying for Europe, the only thing that should matter is how teams perform on the pitch. Giving elite clubs yet another in-built advantage for no good reason is, to be frank, utterly unacceptable. It undermines the idea that success comes from hard work, determination, and skill, and that everybody has an equal opportunity to compete at the top level. We all know that the game needs to change from top to bottom. But it needs to change for the better and in the interests of the widest possible range of stakeholders, not just the wealthy.”
For a more comprehensive overview of FSE’s thinking on UEFA club competitions reform and the European Super League, read our position paper.