Plans to allow teams to qualify for the Champions League based on historical performance have received the backing of Europe’s top clubs as the best way to ensure the competition remains “premium” and “inclusive”. The changes are all but certain to be implemented by Uefa for the 2024-25 season.
The influential European Club Association has developed the system as part of a process of reforming Uefa’s competitions from 2024 and on Tuesday also gave its backing at its congress in Vienna to new rules regarding Financial Fair Play (FFP).
The reforms, originated in a working group of ECA members and Uefa officials, will include reserving two of the 36 Champions League group places for teams who would otherwise have played in the Europa League but have a high-ranking coefficient based on previous continental performance. These two places would be awarded in addition to those based on league performance, with a maximum of six clubs entering the Champions League from any one national association.
Speaking at the congress the ECA vice-president, Aki Riihilahti, said he was “very happy” with the proposals, which will be taken on by Uefa. More countries than ever will be guaranteed group-stage places across Uefa’s three men’s club competitions.
“When we’re talking about the European performance spots, we added domestic performance because you have to look at the whole picture,” said Riihilahti, who is the CEO of HJK Helsinki and sat on the working group. “How do we have quality premium competitions which are also inclusive? When we add the domestic performance [that means] the next best is there. There’s no leapfrogging. It’s fair, it adds value, and overall when you look at the total picture it makes sense. As a smaller country’s champion, I was very happy with the whole thing.”
Also agreed in principle are new FFP rules which would see clubs competing in European football adhere to an annual cap on the money they can spend on transfers and wages. That figure is understood to be 70% of annual revenue, with the potential for fines or docked points should the level be exceeded. The previous method of calculation for FFP looked retrospectively at a club’s spending and set a limit on the money any club could lose. Again, these rules are to be finalised by Uefa.
The two-day meeting in Vienna showed a united front among the 247 men’s clubs who are members, with plans also announced to create a membership structure for women’s clubs. ECA members committed an initial €1m to assist Ukrainian refugees.
Three clubs missing from the list are the remaining European Super League-supporting clubs, Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madrid. This was the first in-person gathering of the ECA since the attempted launch of the ESL last year, and the ECA’s new chairman, Nasser al-Khelaifi of Paris St-Germain, said he did not expect a recurrence of any such breakaway.
“Today we are proving that there is a big potential in the Uefa club competitions and we don’t need another system,” Khelaifi said. “Everyone is against it, from the fans and the media to the clubs – big and small – and [the breakaway clubs] are three only. The strange thing is that they are now enjoying playing in Uefa competitions; they are playing in the best competition. There is no potential they can do something like [revive the Super League]: we are united. In the ECA we found our unity in 2021.”
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