After controversial Champions League reforms: UEFA’s European Cup plans questionable

There always has to be more
Questionable UEFA reforms

The details of the European Cup reform have been clarified. If German clubs perform well, another club will benefit in the following season. The increase in the number of games is still in doubt. Like many others.

The European Cup fever will rise again in Berlin, Cologne and Freiburg. If this reform of the Champions League, which has been controversial for several months, actually takes effect, and if Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund do better – yes, then the fifth Bundesliga will also play in the first division next season. This season, which ends at the weekend with decisions over European Cup venues, it will remain the same for now: UEFA reform will come in 2024 – and with it the question of who should watch a lot of football.

number of games

“More participants and more matches do not necessarily lead to more enthusiasm and higher quality,” said Bernd Neuendorf, president of the German Football Association, after the UEFA CEO decided the final details of the partial revolution in Vienna on Tuesday. The 60-year-old meant it in a positive way, because the number of preliminary round matches for each first division team – then it would be 36 instead of the previous 32 – has been reduced from ten to eight at the start. It is no longer played in groups, but rather in a league system. In the Champions League, that still means 64 more games.

Each team plays eight different opponents in four home matches and four away matches. The top eight qualify directly for the knockout stage, while the others play 24 qualifying matches to enter the round of 16. A final tournament like Bayern’s victory in the summer of Corona 2020 is off the table. Similar changes will also be introduced in the European League (eight matches in the league stage) and the European Conference League (six matches).

“We worked hard to put the finishing touches on,” said Giorgio Marchetti, UEFA competitions director. “There were some points of controversy.” In particular, fan groups and the integration of European leagues have recently come under clear criticism.

Lab problem

Originally, two of the four extra teams were due to qualify after previous European successes – a kind of safety net for big clubs after a poor season, encouraged by the ECA. The UEFA Exko decided a compromise: the two places do not go directly to the clubs, but to the two national federations that performed the best in the European Cup (Champions League, European League and Conference League) last season. The next best team from the league will move up – in Germany 5th.

“I am glad that a good solution has been found today. This includes the fact that the team’s sporting performance in the National League the previous season was still crucial to the start of the championship in international competitions,” Neundorf said. “Only sporting performance will continue to determine qualification, and all clubs can continue to dream of participating,” UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said.

After the 2019/20 season, Germany would have secured one of the new two places with a Bayern victory. Theoretically, there could be seven junior players in the German Champions League: if German clubs won the Champions League and the European League, but did not reach the top five in the Bundesliga – and if Germany was one of the best in the previous season both countries were. England and Holland will benefit this season, and the Netherlands will also benefit from the Feyenoord Rotterdam Conference League final.


“We listened and acted when necessary,” Marchetti said, noting that the next issue with a huge potential for conflict would only be negotiated at a later time: the distribution of funds. UEFA will market the additional games for a lot of money. Fan groups fear that the gap between big and small clubs will continue to grow exponentially. “We have to take a few breaths and then start this process,” Marchetti said.

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