There must always be more
UEFA’s dubious European Cup reform
The details of the Europa Cup reform have been clarified. If the German clubs do well, another club will benefit from the ensuing season. The increase in the number of games is still questionable. Like many others.
The Europa Cup fever in Berlin, Cologne and Freiburg would currently rise again. If this reform of the Champions League, which had been extremely controversial for several months, had already come into force, and if FC Bayern and Borussia Dortmund had done better – yes, then the fifth Bundesliga would also play in the top class next season. This season, which ends this weekend with decisions on the Europa Cup places, it remains so far: the UEFA reform comes in 2024 – and with that the question of who should watch so much football.
The number of games
“More participants and more matches do not necessarily lead to more enthusiasm and higher quality,” said Bernd Neuendorf, chairman of the German Football Association, after the UEFA director on Tuesday decided the final details of the partial revolution in Vienna. The 60-year-old felt this in a positive way, because the number of initial matches per team in the premier class – it will then be 36 instead of the previous 32 – has been reduced from the originally planned ten to eight. It is no longer played in groups, but in a league system. In the Champions League, that still means 64 more matches.
Each club meets eight different opponents in four home and four away games. The top eight qualify directly for the knockout round, the others up to place 24 play in the playoffs to advance to the quarterfinals. A final tournament like FC Bayern’s triumph in the Corona summer 2020 is off the table. Similar changes will also be introduced in the Europa League (eight matches in the league phase) and the Europa Conference League (six matches).
“We worked hard to end things. There were some controversial points,” said UEFA competition director Giorgio Marchetti. In particular, fan groups and the merging of the European leagues had recently been clearly criticized.
The coefficient problem
Originally, two of the four extra teams had to qualify for previous European successes – a kind of safety net for big clubs after a bad season’s performance, encouraged by the club association ECA. UEFA Exko decided on a compromise: The two places do not go directly to clubs, but to the two national federations that did the best in the Europa Cup (Champions League, Europa League and Conference League) last season. The second best club from the league would move up – in Germany the fifth.
“I’m glad a good solution was found today. This includes the fact that a team’s sporting performance in their national league in the previous season is still crucial for a starting place in international competitions,” said Neuendorf. UEFA President Alexander Čeferin said: “Only sporting performance will continue to determine qualification and all clubs can continue to dream of participating.”
After the 2019/20 season, Germany would have got one of the two new places with the Bayern triumph. In theory, even seven German Champions League starters are possible: If both the Champions League and the Europa League are won by German clubs, but they do not make the top five in the Bundesliga – and if Germany were one of the best in the previous season were both nations. England and the Netherlands would benefit from the current season, the Netherlands also due to Feyenoord Rotterdam’s final in the Conference League.
“We listened and acted where necessary,” Marchetti said, pointing out that the next issue with enormous potential for dispute would only be negotiated later: the distribution of money. UEFA will market the extra games for a lot of money. Fan groups fear that the gap between big and small clubs will continue to grow enormously. “We have to breathe a little bit and then we start this process,” Marchetti said.