UEFA’s Champions League expansion plans an absolute joke

A leaked proposal to expand the current group phase of the UEFA Champions League has provided further proof that there is no limit to the breath-taking greed that dominates European football.

The continent’s governing body is understood to be preparing a significant expansion of the UCL in 2024 with a proposal for four extra rounds in the group stage and slots for elite clubs who fail to qualify through domestic competitions.

What this all means is that the group phase of the 32-team competition that has many critics due to its predictability will be expanded to 36 teams that will play in a single round-robin instead of a series of groups. The format is unclear.

What it also means – wait for it – is that some famous clubs with massive supporter bases will be given access to the competition even if they did not qualify for the competition by finishing high enough in their respective leagues.

Admittedly, this UEFA measure is clearly designed to appease the filthy rich clubs from Europe’s big leagues who have been craving for an elitist Super League for years.

The Champions League, make no mistake, is the best and most glamorous club competition in the world.

The game’s elite – rightly or wrongly – feel they are carrying the rest of the continent by their extraordinary feats on the field that draw massive television audiences. No argument there.

However they want to play top games against top teams all the time and to hell with the not-so-famous clubs.

So in a way UEFA have to act because if they don’t the dreaded Super League will happen, probably sooner rather than later.

But did it have to come to this? European football is not just about the big leagues of Spain, Germany, Italy, England and France.

It comprises lesser but equally important competitions in the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, Switzerland and so on.

Apart from the fact that a long group phase that gives every club a guarantee of 10 matches instead of six could be excruciatingly dull if the top positions are decided early, this ridiculous plan would reward clubs for having a poor season because of who they were. What a joke!

Hopefully a compromise can be found for this impasse that threatens to destroy the good name of the competition that has provided some of the world game’s most memorable moments since it kicked off in the mid-1950s.

Great teams and great players have taken the European game to extraordinary levels but the history, pedigree and appeal of the competition that was originally designed to reward the creme de la creme of European football will run the risk of being labelled as a greedy, made-for-television cash cow if this plan eventuates.

Yet those executives who dream of super matches every week that draw millions of televiewers might be interested to know that, okay, the big clubs will always be followed by the masses but it remains to be seen if those very masses will keep supporting such a competition.

These plans to transform the competition from 2024 are being discussed by European domestic leagues and the 55 national association leaders will be briefed by UEFA next week.

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