For several years now, those in power in football have been discussing how the premier league will continue: Will it be reformed or will it fall victim to the scenario of a European super league?
Such a Super League, in which the European top clubs would be among themselves – at the expense of the domestic leagues and the smaller European associations – is a mental game that had recently become more and more concrete and thus put UEFA under pressure to criticize the Champions League stamp out or risk their end.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, board member of FC Bayern Munich, has now brought the discussion back into focus: He revealed that a “Week of Football” with semifinals and finals in one city could in future be transformed from an emergency to a permanent solution – and warned at the same time solutions for a problem that he sees as a major weak point of the Champions League in its current form.
“The group stage is starting to get a bit boring. It has six games, and this year we were again qualified after the fourth matchday,” said Rummenigge, who recently distanced himself from the Superliga plans in the CHECK24 one-two was. He referred to simulation games within UEFA to “make this group stage more attractive”. What he would have heard will “please the people, I am convinced of that”.
A Champions League in a new guise is expected from 2024 after the television contracts in force until then have expired. Until then, it must also be clarified in what form the Champions League will be intertwined with the Europa League and the Europa Conference League, which starts this year – and how much the new Champions League will be at the expense of national competitions such as the Bundesliga.
What could the reform look like? SPORT1 names scenarios – and what speaks for and against them.
– Fewer or smaller groups:
Bayern, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, PSG, the top clubs from Italy and England: From the point of view of many fans, the Champions League only really starts when the top teams are in the knockout phase.
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With a more compact group phase – eight groups with three teams or four teams, but only six groups – things would get down to business earlier, the problem of groups decided early and meaningless, boring duels before the knockout phase would be put into perspective.
The problem with this is that it is unlikely that UEFA will implement such a reform at the expense of the smaller clubs and countries. The associations concerned would have to decide this themselves in order to give the idea a majority – which is hardly imaginable.
– Qualification for the group stage:
Another possibility to make the group phase more compact and attractive: A radically reduced group phase (e.g. 4×4 teams) could be switched between two knockout phases – an upgraded qualification and a final round.
In this model, the group stage would be of high quality without the smaller clubs and associations being left out.
The catch: In a serious qualifying phase, top teams could be kicked out – which runs counter to their interests and ultimately also to those of UEFA. This could be avoided by a seeding list that guarantees the champions and runners-up of the top leagues a group start.
If the circle becomes too exclusive in this way, the smaller associations lack the incentive to get involved with the model.
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– More co-factors in the group stage:
There are also variants that would not change the basic constellation, but which would still make the group phase more streamlined and exciting.
The abolition of home and return matches, for example: The top teams could not afford to slip up, which promises more attractive games from the start – and less meaningless duels for the golden pineapple at the end of the group stage. The question to be clarified, however, is how the issue of home law can be resolved fairly.
Another simple idea to increase the attraction of group games: Abolish draws and point-sharing and always add a penalty shoot-out in the event of a draw – so that there is always a winner.
– The Swiss system:
The well-connected behind the soccer scenes Times reported in December that a new league system is well in the running in the internal reform discussion.
Basic idea: Each of the 32 clubs should play ten games against ten opponents drawn (probably without a return game), and an overall table is calculated from the games. The first 16 move into the knockout round – the first against the 16th, the second against the 15th, etc.
The so-called Swiss system would definitely bring a breath of fresh air and solve the problem of the last few days of group play, often with little tension, when each game still has an impact on the knockout round constellation.
Disadvantages: The issue of home rights needs to be clarified, with ten instead of six games the group phase would be bloated instead of tightened – and as a fan you can find the system too complicated.
– Ascent and descent:
Plans had already been leaked in 2019 to introduce a promotion and relegation system between champions, Europe and the future Conference League.
The mind games published at the time envisaged eight relegated teams from the Champions League – as part of a comprehensive qualification reform: In the model, 24 of the 32 Champions League participants should automatically be included in the next season.
The introduction of a relegation battle would bring more explosiveness to the premier class, but at the expense of the national leagues, in which only a few of the coveted premier class tickets could then be played. It is therefore questionable whether the national associations will weaken their own competitions in this way.