It was one of the rarest exploits of modern European football: Ajax Amsterdam, a proud club in the Dutch league, faces giants like Real Madrid and Juventus to qualify for the Champions League final.
Ajax’s run, which started in the summer qualifiers and ended in the semi-final on Wednesday with a goal on the injury, was the kind of chance that any small club dreams of in the Champions League. But it is unlikely to be repeated if concrete proposals for the future of European football, drawn up by the continent’s governing body and its wealthiest clubs, succeed.
While the leaders of the biggest clubs of the continent and UEFA, which governs the sport in Europe and organizes the Champions League, have suggested that there is a series of options on the table, the documents obtained by the New York Times describe a single plan developed. If approved, the Champions League will become a competition dominated by a small group of elite clubs and will leave only four of the 32 seats available to the league teams of the 55 national federations of Europe.
Discussions on the proposed changes created divisions, between the national leagues – led by the English Premier League, La Liga in Spain, and the German and French competitions – to some of their own members. But the documents reviewed by the Times, the product of a project that seems to have been underway for over a year, pose an even greater threat to the national leagues and most of the clubs we did not know before.
If approved, they would lead to a Champions League that would make national competitions almost useless, impose significant barriers to entry for teams outside of the current elite of the game, and widen the gap between the two dozen clubs rich and the hundreds of others that make up the essential of the European game. Final is coming up so hurry up get your tickets for the Champions League final.
National league officials have been informed of the proposal to restructure European competitions this week. The new tournaments would allow, from 2024, the top 21 teams in a 32-team Champions League to automatically qualify for the next season, guaranteeing them annual participation and tens of millions of dollars in additional revenue over to their national rivals to receive. These rivals would likely be unable to compete with the spending power of rich clubs and would find it extremely difficult to qualify for the Champions League on the field.