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Big Changes Coming To The Champions League

The BBC had a really interesting post about how Uefa president Michel Platini is looking to shake things up.

What Platini wants to do is reduce the number of non-champions from countries such as , and and increase the number of champions from the likes of Bulgaria, Slovakia and Latvia in the competition.

To do this, Platini is proposing two different qualifying paths for teams. One will be reserved solely for non-champions from the higher-ranked countries – and that could see England’s fourth team pitted against the fourth team from Spain or Italy.

 

Playing in the is so lucrative that failing to qualify would be massive. Clubs contesting the Champions League proper earn between £4.6m-£20.4m, a share of the £237.31m television pot and match day income, which for each of the big four is about £3m per match.

From UEFA alone, 2008 winners earned almost £42m and runners-up more than £36m.  Since 1992, the Champions League income for the big four in England are:

  • Manchester United: £226m
  • Arsenal: £179m
  • Chelsea: £145m
  • Liverpool: £122m

“Because of the massive amounts of money at stake, the English quartet all budget to reach the group stage every year and if they don’t get there, they are in huge trouble,” said football analyst Alex Fynn. “To do well domestically is an end in itself but it is also a means to an even bigger end, which is the Champions League.”

In today’s financial crisis, it would be really difficult for any of the big four to miss one year of Champions League football. Missing two years would be a financial disaster.

Uefa believes that these changes will make the Champions League more exciting. Finishing first, second or third in a big league like Italy, Spain or England should give teams the right of entry into the group stage as that shows they are amongst the best teams in Europe. Similarly, if you finish first or second in a smaller league like France or Germany you should also qualify. And thirdly, champions in the smallest leagues like , Holland and Greece should also be eligible to play in the Champions League.

UEFA believes that the only reason that 4th place teams are included is because of a concession they gave to prevent the big clubs from forming their own break-away competition.

I disagree with Platini’s plan. All this will do is water down the competition in the group stages. The eight teams originally regarded as favorites to win their groups this season have lost just four of 40 matches played.

UEFA points to the 2008 Champions League debutants Cluj-Napoca (Romania), Anorthosis Famagusta (Cyprus) and BATE Borisov (Belarus) that have spiced up the competition, but heading into the last round of matches, these three debutants had only won 2 matches in the group stages.

The Champions League is the best club competition in the world. Under Platini’s plan it will only be the best competition when the knockout stages occur.

If UEFA really wanted to make this a better competition, they would get rid of the group stages and make the Champions League a straight knockout stage similar to the F.A. Cup. The problem with that is the amount of money that each team makes from 3 guaranteed home games in the group stages.

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