Super League, SuperBowl… Even UEFA know the Champions League has to change

Champions League What would a new format look like?

Bayern Munich win 2020 Champions League
EFE

The peculiar end to last season’s Champions League has prompted UEFA to reconsider the competition’s format long term.

As a result of the delay in the season, the final eight teams gathered for one-legged ties held across two stadiums in Lisbon.

The attraction of the mini tournament, both for a viewer and a shareholder, has pushed UEFA to believe that the Champions League may have to change in order to progress.

“After the pandemic, we had to do a system like this,” UEFA president Alexander Ceferin said after the Champions League final stages in July.

“We had to play in this way but, in the end, we can see that it’s an interesting system. The fans want exciting games where, in every game, one team can beat the other in the Champions League and Europa League.

“So it’s something we have to consider for the future…”

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the president of Bayern Munich, has let some of these considerations slip.

“UEFA are viewing the final week as a major footballing attraction, a bit like the SuperBowl,” Rummenigge told Bayern’s club media recently. “That sounds good, in my opinion. The group phase of the Champions League is boring.”

There has been talk of groups of eight teams, six teams, knockout ties like now, a final phase like in Lisbon, one-legged semi-finals… but never a closed league.

Many are of the opinion that an NBA-style system in European football would kill football. There have been times when the Champions League was competed over two group stages but the format hadn’t changed from the 2003/04 season until the pandemic forced it to in 2019/20.

There is, of course, constant speculation over a European Super League, which concerns those at UEFA and is being discussed by members of the European Clubs Association (ECA).

Some of the teams participating in the Champions League see the 1.95 billion euros that UEFA give out as prize money in the competition every season as not enough. The winner of the Champions League usually gets 100 million euros.

In the Super League project, there has been talk of 500 million euros per season – an amount that is out of the market for many clubs, even though there are investors behind the project.

As some club directors have told MARCA, constant meetings between Europe’s biggest clubs would drive the value of the product up.

UEFA’s plans may clash with those of FIFA, who have seen plans to hold an expanded Club World Cup delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

There’s not room for everything, so FIFA, UEFA and their clubs will have to sit down at one point to agree on something that satisfies everyone.

Holding the European Championship in 12 host cities across the continent seems a utopian scenario right now.

The second wave of the coronavirus pandemic is having major implications on health systems across Europe and alternatives to the current format are being drawn up by UEFA.

It’s thought that we’ll know more about UEFA’s plans for the summer after their executive board meet at the start of February.

Dominique blanc of the Swiss football federation has been the first person to speak out in a warning that Euro 2020 may have to be held in a different way.

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