The UEFA Champions League format as we know it today will soon become a distant memory as the organizing committee for the event approved a new format that will take effect starting from the 2024/25 season.
There has been much talk in recent times of a possible change in the structure of Europe’s most coveted competition. It was announced recently that the number of teams to participate in the event would increase from 32 to 36. However, in addition to this recent change, the number of rounds will only jump from six to 8 per team rather than 10.
The current format includes participants divided into eight groups of four, with the teams playing each other twice over a span of six games. The top two would then advance to the round of 16. The new look Champions League will see teams being placed in a single standing rather than having eight distinct groups. The top eight teams from that set will automatically receive qualification for the round of 16. The remaining teams, up to the 24th team, will then participate in a 16-team playoff to decide the remaining eight teams.
Fans will therefore no longer see their club playing three teams twice but instead face fixtures against ten different teams, half of them at home and half of them away. The organizer’s stance is that this will allow all teams to have more to play for en route to the final and allow each team to test themselves against a wider range of opponents.
UEFA released a statement following the agreement, which said “To ensure the new 2024/25 format will deliver the best for clubs, players and fans, UEFA based its design on extensive consultations with key stakeholders in the European football community. The reforms received unanimous backing on 19 April from both the European Club Association (ECA) Board and the UEFA Club Competitions Committee (composed of a majority of club representatives).”
A resulting change from the format shift will obviously see four additional slots being filled. UEFA indicates that these spots will be filled based on the following criteria:
· Slot One: Will go to the club ranked third in the championship of the association in fifth position in the UEFA national association ranking.
· Slot Two: Will be awarded to a domestic champion by extending from four to five the number of clubs qualifying via the so-called ‘Champions Path’.
- Slots three and four: Will go to two clubs with the highest club coefficients that have not qualified automatically for the Champions League’s league stage, but have qualified either for the Champions League qualification phase or the Europa League/the Europa Conference League (due to start in the 2021/22 season).
Financially, UEFA as well as the clubs themselves are expected to benefit from these changes. More games mean more big matchups which often equal more viewership and ticket sales. There will also be further opportunities to obtain revenue from TV rights, given the increasing interest from fans all over the world who enjoy watching Europe’s elites battle it out season after season. The monetary opportunities stemming from this change are also expected to debunk the now infamous supporters of the European Super League who had proposed that idea in response to their belief that the Champions League was no longer lucrative.
The reclassification of the competition comes with rejuvenated expectations as many believe that this will renew interest in a competition that was said to be fading in excitement. One of the positives about the new format is that many teams who worked hard to qualify for the competition on a whole, will still have an opportunity to progress through to the knockout stages if they do not perform well in the first round, making it fairer, more intriguing and a foundation for more exhilarating matchups.