Does anyone remember the warnings that the power and influence of Europe’s wealthiest clubs would be reduced after the fiasco of the Super League rebellion?
That was just a year ago. And yet, a partial revolution staged by the elite is looming in European football.
Perhaps with the intention of avoiding more fractures, UEFA has not used its victory over the rebel clubs to reform the Champions League and take even a little power from the big clubs.
In fact, teams with more resources will be able to spend even more after the UEFA executive committee approves on Thursday the framework that will replace the so-called Financial Fair Play.
And if they are knocked out of the Champions League for not taking the necessary place in their domestic league, two big teams will be given protection starting in 2024. They will be able to enter the tournament based on their historical record.
You only have to look at Spain to see what a huge difference the Champions League makes to a club’s finances. Sevilla earned a total of 34.6 million euros ($38 million) for winning the Europa League in 2020, but could have generated at least twice that amount from a mediocre Champions League campaign alone.
In the same season, Valencia pocketed 60.8 million euros ($66 million) for reaching the round of 16 in the Champions League.
From 2024, playing in the Champions League will involve more matches, which could dampen fan interest.
How much appetite is there for a new starting phase with a single table, increased from 32 to 36 teams, each of which will play 10 games instead of six?
Only eight teams will qualify directly to the round of 16. But even finishing 24th out of 36 can ticket a club.
All this would subtract interest and risk to the last meetings. This is yet another safety net against failure, allowing a big club to go terribly wrong in the first phase and still have the door open to the knockout rounds.
UEFA did not take advantage of the opportunity to moderate the gigantism of the tournament after the debacle of the Super League. The domestic leagues were rejected in their proposals for eight group stage games.
All the talk about UEFA reconsidering the places based on historical merit – something that would have allowed Arsenal to return to the Champions League this season – has been rejected, although it will not be ratified in Thursday’s match.
UEFA will see the reforms to the Champions League as integral to growing the value of its most lucrative asset in commercial and television rights, as well as preventing future secessionist attempts.