Far from being reinforced by the implosion of the ephemeral Superleague, the reform of the Champions League beyond 2024 is also fueling the fractures of European football, and paying for its poisonous genesis.
By unveiling the future C1 on April 19, a few hours after the launch by twelve big clubs of their own private tournament, UEFA suspected that the mutiny would eclipse the charms of its “exciting new format”.
But even the collapse of the proposed split, two days later, hardly aroused interest in the transition from the premier competition from 32 to 36 clubs, with one hundred more matches supposed to entice broadcasters, and a “mini-championship” inspired by chess tournaments to replace the current group stage.
If supporters, players, coaches and political leaders came to UEFA’s aid, it was in the name of their attachment to continental tournaments based on promotion-relegation (never to praise its latest find).
“More and more matches, and nobody is thinking of us players?” The new format of the C1, it’s the least of evils compared to the Superleague“Deplored Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gündogan last Thursday.
Squeaking, his coach Pep Guardiola quipped the next day to the press: “Perhaps we should ask UEFA and FIFA to extend the year. Maybe we could have 400 days a year. “
“Every season, it’s the same, he regretted. Players love to play, but get injured. UEFA knows that, of course, but does it care? Absolutely not“.
Same weariness among Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp, for whom “the only people who are never consulted are coaches, players and supporters”, while the big teams are “already on a tight rope”.
Finally, on the eve of bringing back the draw (1-1) in the semi-final first leg of C1 on Real Madrid, Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel confided that he was “not happy at the idea of this format, not at all. But I was not involved“.
However, UEFA maneuvered for months before giving birth to its reform, but without public debate: as usual, it negotiated behind the scenes with European Leagues, the association representing around thirty championships, and especially with the powerful European Association of Clubs (ECA).
“The beauty” of this radical overhaul “has been recognized by all”, even dared March 8 Andrea Agnelli, then boss of Juventus Turin and ECA, before revealing himself to be one of the leaders of the Superleague.
The double game of the Piedmontese leader, like the eleven other mutineers who had validated the future Champions League while striving to torpedo it, today still undermines the credibility of the future C1.
Haro on the “super elite”
Officially, UEFA has no intention of reviewing its copy (if not at the margin, with the possible creation of a “Final 4” where the semi-finals and the final would be grouped together), and will now focus on the distribution of revenues and marketing of TV rights.
But if criticism were to gain momentum, the “Swiss system” at least has the advantage of flexibility: grouped together in a single pool, clubs can also compete against each other over ten days, as currently planned, than eight or six to reduce the number of meetings.
UEFA will no matter what happens to deal with the aftermath of the Super League episode: coaches, players, supporters and championships seem less inclined than ever to let the authorities weigh down the schedule by doing without their opinion.
“There are so many new formats: we have the Nations League, soon a new Club World Cup (expanded to 24 teams, editor’s note), more teams at the Euro this summer… It’s still and always more matches, but no more quality“, Enumerated Thomas Tuchel on Monday.
For twenty years, “a small number of clubs has experienced exponential growth”, boosted by “the development of ‘super elite’ competitions” to the detriment of “the interest and balance of the championships”, noted Friday the World Forum of leagues.
” This situation must be reversed, and it is now necessary to concentrate on the development of national competitions ”which support the vast majority of clubs, claimed the association.