Europe’s top four leagues will have four guaranteed places in the Champions League group stage from the 2018-19 season, UEFA has confirmed.
The top four leagues in the UEFA coefficient ranking, currently La Liga, the Bundesliga, Premier League and Serie A, will see four teams enter the group stage without having to go through a qualification round.
Currently, La Liga, the Bundesliga and the Premier League are guaranteed three group spots, with a fourth possible through the qualifying round, while Serie A has two guaranteed spots and a third possible via qualification.
The Premier League was in danger of losing one its places to Serie A at the end of this season, particularly after Sassuolo qualified for this season’s Europa League group stage while West Ham were eliminated, but both leagues will now get four Champions League spots.
UEFA was under pressure to do something to appease the big clubs after talk had intensified earlier this year about a breakaway European Super League.
UEFA general secretary ad interim Theodore Theodoridis said:
“The evolution of UEFA’s club competitions is the result of a wide-ranging consultative process involving all stakeholders and taking into account a wide range of expertise and perspectives.
“The amendments made will continue to ensure qualification based on sporting merit, and the right of all associations and their clubs to compete in Europe’s elite club competitions.
“We are happy that European football remains united behind the concepts of solidarity, fair competition, fair distribution and good governance.”
A number of other changes have been implemented. The winner of the Europa League will now get immediate access to the Champions League groups stage, rather than having to dispute a play-off, and financial distribution will be reformatted and increased.
This was a big win for Italy and Serie A. One passage of the reform summary released on UEFA’s official site is particularly significant, as it reads:
“Historical success in the competition will also be acknowledged in coefficient calculation (points for previous European titles with a weighted system for UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League titles).”
This means that Italy’s coefficient will be comparatively strong by default, as their recent lack of success is counterbalanced by a rich history in the Champions League.