UEFA is doing to the Champions League what ISIS wants to do to World Heritage Sites in Syria: desecrating it. Perhaps that borders on hyperbole, and I don’t want to trivialize the terrible situation in parts of the Middle East, but UEFA’s latest money grab is bad news for just about everyone.
UEFA has about as much integrity as a wet noodle, and their willingness to bow to the almighty dollar is a visceral reminder that the commercialization of sport is at odds with the spirit of the beautiful game.
If the proposed changes are approved by UEFA’s board, which they will be, the top 4 leagues in Europe – Spain’s Liga, Germany’s Bundesliga, England’s Premier League and Italy’s Serie A – will control 16 of the 32 Champions League spots. This means the top four finishers in each of those leagues will automatically qualify for the Champions League.
Currently, the top three leagues get three spots and one playoff spot and the fourth league gets two spots with a playoff spot. So we’re going from 11 guaranteed spots to 16 guaranteed spots for the top four leagues.
In a nutshell, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.
Life is fractal.
How did this happen?
The Real Madrids, Barcelonas, Bayern Munichs, Juventuses, and Manchester Uniteds of the world put the pressure on UEFA.
Their argument was that since they invest so much more in their teams relative to teams in lesser leagues that their entry in the Champions League should not be left to chance.
The big leagues and teams with name recognition are what drive viewership and sponsorship, and they came at UEFA like this: “Our value to the Champions league is far greater than quasi-obscure teams from secondary and tertiary leagues, and thus, we should be rewarded with more slots. And if you don’t see things this way, we’ll leave UEFA and make our own Champions League.”
After six months of intense negotiations with the big clubs, UEFA decided it didn’t want to go to war with its most valuable constituents and capitulated to their demands.
When is it going down?
This new deal covers 2018 to 2021. And the new deal had to be done by this fall, so the big clubs had a lot of leverage on UEFA.
I get that UEFA is a business and money makes the world go ’round, but it’s hard not to be bummed out about the new format of the Champions League. Part of the fun was watching teams you never heard of beat the titans of world football, and any way you slice it, there’s going to be fewer underdogs in the Champions League starting in 2018.