Champions League football is back with Round of 16 matches starting this week. However, attention was taken away from the pitch when the Premier League vehemently rejected a new proposed expansion of the UCL by UEFA. The new format would expand the competition from 32 teams to 36 teams and guarantee each club ten matches instead of the normal six group stage ties that we have become accustomed to. The kicker is that UCL spots wouldn’t be determined by domestic league standings. No, UEFA wants European coefficients to be the decider as to whether or not a club qualifies the UCL. The European coefficient system favors established, successful clubs. In other words, the Premier League’s UCL spots would almost always go to the “big six,” no matter how they perform in the league. No thanks.
The way I see it, this plan is a complete money grab from UEFA, meant to diminish the meaning and importance of domestic leagues. I have to think this proposal comes in response to the European Super League idea that was discussed among Europe’s top clubs in December. As part of that plan, Europe’s top 16 clubs would break away from UEFA to play their own highly competitive tournament. I wasn’t a huge fan of that idea either but it would be short enough to where the Premier League would still matter. UEFA wants a 10 match group stage with an extra knockout round to boot, a multi-month endeavor that would make match scheduling even more cramped than it is now.
Jurgen Klopp has said on multiple occasions that he doesn’t like playing Wednesday night European matches before a mid-day Saturday EPL tie. Currently, he only has to do that maybe twice a season at the most. Just wait until he’s got to do that for multiple weeks on end. The muscle injury spikes we’ve seen this season will become the norm. There’s no way clubs in the UCL will able to field a fit squad for their EPL matches. Overall, the quality of play in the EPL will be diminish in favor of an outside league that for the most part, won’t even come close to the same level of competition.
There’s also the fact that the new UCL will use European coefficients to determine qualification. Yeah, that’s a terrible idea. The top 4 race is always one of the best storylines of the Premier League season. Any EPL club, no matter how rich or successful in the past, can qualify for European competition through finishing in the top 4. European coefficients are made up of a variety of factors including previous club success. Why should a club’s history matter in determining their worth for a UCL place during one specific season? Let’s use Leicester City as an example of a club that is slighted by the coefficient system. Leicester are having a great season. They’ve arguably been the most consistent Premier League squad outside of Man City. The Foxes are currently 3rd in the table, meaning they’d deservedly qualify for next season’s UCL. However, they’re 49th in the European coefficient rankings, meaning somehow, the third best team in the best league in the world would not be in UEFA’s premier competition.
The Premier League, along with other domestic leagues for that matter, would lose much of their significance under this plan. As an ardent EPL fan, that would be devastating. I’m in favor of keeping things the way they are now, with the UCL as an equal with the Premier League. An expanded UCL would take away money, viewers, and significance away from the league we love. UEFA is trying to destroy the Premier League. That can’t happen.
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