The Champions League is the elite competition for European club football. It is a showcase for the best teams from the best leagues and is an opportunity for teams to make tens of millions every season.
Formerly known as the European Cup, the competition changed from a knockout tournament to a new format that combined a knockout and league element in 1992.
This latest change is the biggest shake-up to the tournament in more than 30 years and could generate even more money for an already lucrative revenue stream for the football industry, and other sectors that benefit from it.
Why the Champions League is Changing
The main reason the Champions League is changing is to generate more money and inject new excitement into the tournament. A recent attempt by top clubs to break away and form a European Super League caused a lot of controversy, and this could be an attempt by football’s governing bodies to dissuade teams from further attempts.
The new format means the total number of matches played in the tournament will increase from 125 to 189. This will be great news for teams competing and other industries that benefit from European football.
Travel companies and hotels will see greater interest as fans travel to support their teams in different cities. It will also be a huge boost to the gambling industry with more betting markets available in betting shops and across the best offshore gambling sites.
The additional four places in the tournament will see two going to the two best-performing leagues in Europe. One additional place will be awarded to the third-placed team in the UEFA coefficient fifth-ranked league.
The final place will be awarded to the top-ranking champion who would traditionally have to go through the qualifying stages.
The current format sees three qualifying rounds starting in June where six teams join the 26 teams that have already qualified to create eight, four-team groups where teams play each other twice.
The 16 teams that finish first and second in each of their groups then progress to the knockout stage of the tournament.
The new Champions League format will see the competition increase from 32 teams to 36. Teams will compete in one large league, but a draw will be made to determine the fixtures. Each team will be playing four home games and four away games.
The fixtures will be decided by a seeding system that divides the teams into four pots. After these fixtures are completed, the top eight will automatically qualify for the next round of 16. The remaining eight teams will be decided in a playoff between teams that finish from ninth to twenty-fourth.
Teams that finish outwith these positions will drop out of European competition. This is a big difference from the current format that sees the third-placed teams in the group drop into the Europa League.
The Champions League and UEFA have come in for criticism in recent years as certain proposals seemed to favour traditionally big teams and leagues. This appeared to help the big teams keep earning higher revenues and resulted in the gulf in finances between the big leagues and clubs widening.
It remains to be seen whether this new format will do anything to move away from this model or if it is just another way to get more of the big teams playing against each other.