Champions League: UEFA under huge pressure to scrap reforms that protect access for biggest clubs

Huge pressure is building on UEFA to scrap unpopular changes to the Champions League that would guarantee qualification places for Europe’s most powerful clubs.

And the debate over how many matches will be played in the reformed competition is also still up for grabs, according to the president of LaLiga, Javier Tebas.

Tebas is well placed to judge the mood. As well as being the head of the Spanish league, he is also on the management board of the European Leagues organisation and its representative on the executive committee, which will take the final decision.

Clubs and leagues are calling on UEFA to abandon some reforms to the Champions League

The outspoken Spaniard told journalists after a meeting of the European Leagues organisation on Thursday that he is ‘totally convinced’ that UEFA will have to cut a deal on the reforms it formerly agreed with the European Club Association. 

Under current plans big clubs would have protected access to the Champions League post 2024

Under current plans big clubs would have protected access to the Champions League post 2024

And Crystal Palace chairman, Steve Parish, told 600 delegates at the meeting held in Madrid and on Zoom that there is now a ‘large momentum for change’.

Under plans to reform the competition from 2024, UEFA has agreed to increase the number of teams in the competition from 32 to 36.

Of the four additional places, two were earmarked for top clubs based on their past performance in the competition using a UEFA coefficient, if they miss out on regular qualification.

The loophole, which was demanded by the ECA that was then in the grip of the European Super League plotters, would mean a big club finishing seventh in the Premier League could ‘leapfrog’ other sides that finished ahead of it and still land a spot in the lucrative Champions League.

In addition, the current plans for the Champions League include a group phase of ten matches per club, which would result in an increase of 100 games overall, from 125 to 225.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas is 'totally convinced' agreement will be reached with UEFA

LaLiga president Javier Tebas is ‘totally convinced’ agreement will be reached with UEFA

This would put huge pressure on domestic leagues, particularly the Premier League, and would threaten the existence of the Carabao Cup, which is a vital source of income for many clubs.

‘I am very concerned about the original proposals that were made about the increases to [the number of matches in] the calendar and particularly the coefficient.

‘English football fans in my view will not accept a seventh placed team leapfrogging a fifth placed team into the Champions League.

‘We also have to look at, is it right that at any time the Premier League should have five teams that access directly the Champions League when an Ajax or a Warsaw have to pre-qualify in the summer having won their league?

Tebas says that the 'shock' of the European Super League will make UEFA keen to compromise

Tebas says that the ‘shock’ of the European Super League will make UEFA keen to compromise 

‘I think there is a large momentum for change and we must change some of these current UEFA proposals to suit everybody around Europe.’

The man to take the concerns of Parish and the European Leagues to UEFA is the LaLiga chief Tebas. 

‘Obviously we will decide around the table and try to convince them,’ Tebas told journalists following a European Leagues meeting on Thursday.

‘’There is always time until the day before UEFA decides to issue the broadcasting rights tender. Until that day there is always time.’

Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish says there is 'large momentum for change' on reforms

Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish says there is ‘large momentum for change’ on reforms

‘UEFA should work in coordination with the domestic leagues. Ten matches are too much,’ said Tebas. ‘For me, it would be better for six, but we can agree to eight.

‘[Qualification] should be based on sporting merit,’ he added. ‘Sporting merit is the key to all of this.’

However, Tebas is sympathetic to clubs that regularly appear in the Champions League only to miss out on qualification and the revenues they have become accustomed to. He likened the situation to relegation from a league, where the solution is often a financial payment rather than granting special permission to continue in the division.

He hinted compensation could be appropriate in this instance, too. ‘It has to be solved on a financial level,’ he said.

Asked if UEFA was more open to change and the abolition of the protected qualification for big clubs, Tebas said: ‘This shock we have all experienced related to the Super League, I am sure everyone is now more open to defending our own ecosystem.

‘I am totally convinced there will be agreements with UEFA because the danger of this ideology of the Super League still exists.’