Will the New Champions League Format be Deadly for Premier Clubs Outside the “Big Six”?

There is a new proposed Champions League format. Will it have major consequences for mid-table and lower-mid-table Premier League teams? Read on for more.

There’s always talk that all the European super clubs will break away from their domestic and continental commitments to create their own exclusive league. There would only be a select few who are allowed in. There would be no relegation and no promotion. There would be a security that isn’t afforded to teams right now. Clubs would become franchises.

With all this talk, it can feel to fans that every adjustment to domestic and European competitions is done to appease these clubs and is only serving to put off the inevitable: the European Super League.

The latest format change for the Champions League could have consequences for those who are traditionally outside of the “big six” (though, in reality, it’s now more like a “big six and Leicester”).

The Global Game

Football is a global game. Clubs try to tap into and satisfy this market by scheduling pre-season tours in non-European countries, where their games aren’t usually played live, so that fans in those places can see the players and the team, so they feel included in the experience of being a fan. La Liga are the only league who have organised a domestic competitive match to be played outside of their country when they signed a deal with Saudi Arabia to play their Super Cup (their equivalent of the Community Shield) there. Opening up to the global market means more revenue.

There are sports which by default operate globally. They have events on a global circuit. Motorsport is a common example. This kind of access to a market of this size is difficult for football to establish. The NFL and NBA play regular season games outside the U.S, but they are very much aware of the games being a marketing tool.

Some clubs have begun to set up esports teams as a way of improving their exposure and diversify their revenue streams. Being involved in this booming scene has been a key way for many organisations and sports to thrive. GGPoker is one example. They’ve assembled a squad of talent, who they sponsor, to represent them as they stream live to an audience. Consistent and good quality content generates large viewing figures to people who might not have an interest in the traditional games. They may favour the digital version of a sport, be it poker or football. All this leads to great ways to interest people in their sport and club, leading them to pursue their own participation by playing GGPoker real money poker games or to stores to buy merchandise. It’s all about effective branding.

Champions League Format

The new format will see 36 teams in the competition, competing in a Swiss model league. Each team will play at least ten games. The top-eight automatically qualifies for the last-16, with the next 16 teams in the league competing in a two-legged playoff to make it to the last-16. From then on out, it’s the two-legged knockout format that fans are very familiar with.

Moving from 32 teams to 36 means there’s an extra four places up for grabs. Some suggest that the representatives of the European leagues want these spots to go to champions of countries which don’t already automatically qualify for the group stage. However, others think that two of the four places could be “wildcards,” which may result in a coefficient-based decision, whereby if, say, Manchester United finished outside the top-four, they would still qualify because their coefficient is higher than other teams who performed better in that season.

There have also been discussions about a rule that Champions League teams would be divided into tiers. Transfers between two teams in the same tier wouldn’t happen. The idea is to promote doing business with clubs outside of their tiers and the competition, and limiting the chance that £100m+ transfer fees occur.

Domestic Leagues

How would this affect teams like Newcastle? Well, it consolidates the position of the major teams in the Premier League for starters, meaning upward mobility would be more difficult as they are guaranteed huge revenue.

With the addition of more games, the EFL Cup could be taken out of the schedule entirely. While Manchester City have had their hands firmly on the title for a number of years now, it would remove the chance of income for small sides in the Premier League and outside of it.

The transfer ban could help teams outside the big-six, but this is dependent on teams having players worth buying. It could be that major teams hold onto players for longer and that the average age of squads increases, rather than using their youth or buying for the sake of buying.

The good thing, though, for Newcastle and their peers, fans have suggested, is that football has noticed its shortcomings, that something must change so that the sport doesn’t overextend and become unsustainable and non-competitive. Clubs are looking at ways to diversify income and, also, secure income. How domestic and continental football will look is now a serious question and topic of discussion in the highest offices and boardrooms of the sport.

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