UEFA announced yesterday that it is considering doubling the size of the Champions League and doing away with the Europa League from 2015 onwards.
The news has been met with a mixed reception across the soccer community. The obvious argument against creating a 64 team Champions League is that it detracts from the elitist element which the competition currently holds. Instead of the emphasis being on form and finishing in the top four, a team in England could finish as low as seventh and qualify for the competition.
There is also a big question over the logistics of such a competition. There is talk of an additional knock out round and larger groups which would increase the number of European away games being played by domestic sides. The recovery time that some teams already have between Champions League matches and domestic games is already slim so unless domestic competitions are reduced in size, it is difficult to get a head round the logistics of a super Champions League.
For all of the fringe teams on the verge of European soccer, they will obviously support these proposals. More than the chance to sell more Stanno football kits and other club merchandise, it's also a chance to be a part of a more profitable and more prominent competition, plus the scheduling will help too. Teams in the Europa League currently face more hectic schedules than teams in the Champions League and they are forced to only play games on a Thursday night.
It would also substantially improve the chances of these teams of retaining the services of key players and being able to attract the interest of better stars. It would stop star players from these sides from being head hunted by top Champions League teams.
It's also important to consider the quality angle and how this move would affect the overall quality of European soccer. The proposals from UEFA could see five teams from Scotland involved so a situation could develop where Motherwell or Inverness end up playing Barcelona. This would naturally improve the style, tactics and technique of the Scottish teams but there is a clear case to state that this would detract from the novelty and excitement of elite European sides coming together in an exclusive competition.
This could be countered by the unpredictability of an extra knock out phase. Celtic showed with their recent win over Barcelona that any team can beat any other side with a disciplined performance over a single evening. Knock out soccer can be much more rewarding but there will be managers who would support a longer group stage as this would naturally reward the teams that are better and more consistent over a longer period of time. It would naturally become a lot more difficult for a side to survive in this new competition from the group stages, through the knock out rounds and right up to the final.
The prestige of winning such a title would be huge and it could improve the value of being a top European team. Financially UEFA already make £800 million from the Champions League so the financial rewards for clubs of a bigger Champions League would be even greater. Such a competition would be sold to broadcasters all over the world and could see current Europa League sides receiving a massive chunk of investment.
A new Champions League would also go a long way towards helping UEFA implement their Financial Fair Play regulations in the respect that there would be a level playing field for all. There would be no need to create different sets of rules for clubs looking to qualify for different competitions and the importance of breaking even would increase; if you spend more than you earn, you don't play in the super Champions League.
It could be possible that UEFA are just testing the water to try and gauge the reaction to these proposals. They have confirmed they are not going to talk in detail about any plans until at least 2014.
However, change is needed because the Europa League currently seems flat across the soccer community and presidents from top sides such as Barcelona have previously suggested that an independent breakaway European League may come together if the current format of the Champions League and the Europa League is not reviewed. Watch this space.
Lewis Doe writes for the football blog Soccerlens.com.
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