UEFA is expected to push through its “Swiss model” Champions League reforms at a congress meeting tomorrow, adding another 100 games per season to the calendar and potentially opening up another space for a Premier League club to qualify.
The competition is set to expand to 36 teams from 2024 and the proposed structure, which has received the backing of the powerful European Clubs Association (ECA), will see teams play 10 games in a round-robin format that will be seeded. Those in possession of the top eight records after the “group stage” will then progress to the quarter-finals.
While Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish is among the most vocal critics of the reform, describing it as having “a quite devastating effect on domestic competition”, the changes could be good news for Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur if plans to give two of the four extra places to teams based on historical performance are voted through.
That could mean a scenario where one of the capital’s big three finish sixth in the Premier League but still qualify for the Champions League on the back of their coefficient ranking.
Such a proposal has been deemed unfair on clubs who do not have a history in the competition. West Ham are currently fifth in the Premier League table with Spurs sixth – but under the new rules the latter could still end up in the biggest club competition because of their coefficient standing.
The ECA have argued that more European football is needed to grow the sport but those against the reforms argue it is a platform for the rich to become even richer.
Speaking at a Financial Times event last month, the group’s chief executive Charlie Marshall said: “We absolutely feel there is room to play more European games. That’s bang in the centre of where we are coming from. We absolutely see it can work, we don’t see as many causes for alarm in the balance between European and domestic competition.”
Parish, however, suggested at a European Leagues meeting a fortnight ago that the reform could result in the end of the League Cup.
“This may not be affecting your domestic league maybe as much as it looks like it will affect our domestic competitions, but the creep is never-ending,” he said. “With the assault on the calendar, we are talking about a transfer of value from domestic leagues to European competition. I think it’s very concerning.”
Lars-Christer Olsson, the former UEFA executive who now heads up the European Leagues group, said that their preference is for “the champions of Scotland or Denmark, not the sixth-place team in England and Spain” to qualify should the changes be implemented but they appear powerless to stop the governing body from voting in favour at a meeting tomorrow.