There’s no smoke without fire in football, and everyone needs a dose of reality – the elite will push for a European Super League.
It’s a popular idea among those who don’t enjoy football for football. Welcome to the real world, punk. Leave your hopes and dreams at the door.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, as some top clubs have already come out and said they have no interest in such a breakaway league. Real life isn’t restricted from change like a game of Football Manager where every competition is running in the exact same format way into the next millennium.
However, the need and appetite for reform is evident, and so we might as well try and embrace how a future will look at the top of the game for the better – by shaking up the Champions League like it’s a distressed passenger in Airplane.
The top dogs care about the revenue that a Super League would bring, with high-profile games being played on a far more frequent basis. The problem with the Champions League is that there’s only six group games which rarely bring about heavyweight clashes, and this is followed by a two month break from the competition.
So how do you get the best teams to face off on a more frequent basis?
Let’s start in England. For the sake of humanity, ease of this argument, and just generally common sense, sides in the Champions League will now be dropped from the Carabao Cup. You’re welcome.
Secondly, the September international break will now be cancelled – just play qualifiers in the November break instead of having friendlies – and seasons can start to flow a little more once starting, giving domestic leagues time to plug in more fixtures early on.
Schedule amendments sorted, let’s get stuck in.
32 teams become 28 – take one space off of Italy just like old times, while Cyprus, the Czech Republic and Denmark lose one of their two spots because of their place in the coefficient table. Did any of you even know that those countries have two Champions League spots?
With these sides, you now have two groups of 14 teams, two mini-leagues of sorts to run concurrently with domestic competitions. Country protection is loosened a little to allow two teams from the same nation per group (unless five sides from the same league qualify, as was the case with English teams in the 2017/18 season).
Teams are still split into four pots, with the champions of the top five leagues plus the previous Champions League and Europa League winners going into pot one, and the remaining pots decided by coefficient. Four teams from pot one go into Group A, with the other three going into Group B – the rest of the pots are drawn this way alternately to fairly fill the groups.
Based on coefficient and accounting for country protection, this is how the groups would look with this season’s teams.
|Group A||Group B|
|Paris Saint-Germain||Real Madrid|
|Atletico Madrid||Borussia Dortmund|
|Tottenham Hotspur||Zenit St. Petersburg|
|Lyon||Red Bull Salzburg|
Obviously playing 26 games is a stretch, so instead you play each side once (much like the old UEFA Cup group stage) in order to play 13 games. Whether you play a particular team home or away will be decided by coefficient following the draw – for example, the top seeded team in the group will host the side with the second highest coefficient, play away to the third highest, host the fourth highest and so on.
Think about the sides that you think ‘yeah, they can cause some problems’ about ahead of a regular group stage where they only have six games, and now imagine the havoc they could cause among the best of the best when they play 13 times.
The competition will still be played on weekday evenings so to keep with the football purists/everyone’s beliefs that league games are for the weekends – European nights are something to treasure anyway.
We kick off action during the first week of September, and have two more matchdays before the month is out, while there will be two matchdays in the following months up until and including February – those are your 13 ‘group’ games, almost guaranteed to bring in more revenue for everyone, more European clashes to look forward to off the bat.
Once those matches have concluded, the top four sides from the groups advance to the quarter-finals – that’s right, only four teams out of 14 go through, so you better not faff about. The knockout stages remain two-legged, but are now drawn as a tournament tree, with first place from Group A playing fourth in Group B etc.
For a few years now, critics have said that the randomness of the current Champions League make it an unfair way of crowning a champion compared to domestic leagues. With this system, you get a league stage which has to be taken seriously and a knockout stage to keep the unpredictability of football flowing.
Moving to this system draws parallels with the playoffs of American sports, where stakes are higher and viewership sky rockets. There isn’t a ratings problem with football at the moment, but the other factors indicate a fresh change would benefit everyone. This is the compromise between freshening European football and stopping a Super League from forming.