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UEFA to tilt Champions League even further towards big clubs

It’s not a closed competition. Yet.

Real Madrid v Club Atletico de Madrid - UEFA Champions League Final
Get used to this
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

We all love it when the underdogs get a shot to topple the big clubs, don’t we? I mean, we don’t when we’re Arsenal playing Wrexham in 1992, I suppose, but in almost any other endeavor, it’s fun to see the little guys beat the big guys - and even if they don’t, it’s nice to see some fresh blood mixed in every now and again, right?

Well, UEFA and its member clubs don’t seem to think so. Once it was clear in the late 1990’s that the various European top leagues weren’t content with sucking up the lion’s share of the monies available in their various countries, the top clubs in those leagues toyed with creating what they then called the “Europa League” - a closed, pro-rel free 20-team competition featuring only the biggest, richest clubs.

That never took hold, obviously, but the threat has never really gone away, and even gained a little steam a couple years back when clubs decided once again that too much money wasn’t enough.

Well, today comes word that UEFA has heard the unfortunate “plight” of these desperately-not-even-remotely-rich-enough teams, and is pondering introducing changes to the format of the Champions League from 2018 onwards. Those changes would not be to make the competition more equitable or accessible, though, nor would they add more teams. Among the changes being discussed are:

- More guaranteed entries for stronger leagues
- Guaranteed spots for the biggest clubs
- Weekend matchdays (to increase viewing audiences)

Interestingly enough, the Premier League doesn’t seem too enthused about these changes; I guess having their domestic competition float in an almost literal sea of money has made them care a bit less about what happens on the international stage.

I know I’m probably in the minority on this, but I don’t like most of these proposed changes - one of the things I love about tournaments is their unpredictability, and if guaranteed spots in the CL become a thing, it takes some of the fun out of it. Almost certainly, Chelsea and Manchester United would have two of those spots, which if that rule were in effect this year would see Chelsea being rewarded for a 10th place finish by being handed a spot in Europe’s premier club competition.

I’m a big believer in sporting merit - if you’re good enough this year, you earn the rewards. If you’re not, you don’t. I hate the idea that clubs can just count on the CL every year without earning it - that concept takes a lot of the fun out of the end of the season, for me. But, I’m just a consumer, and my voice doesn’t matter, so look for these changes to take effect starting in 2018.