UEFA have taken the rather baffling decision of amending the qualification process for the Champions League from next season.
The top four leagues (currently Spain, Germany, England and Italy in that order) will qualify four teams automatically through to the group stages taking half of all the positions available without the risk of entering a play off.
Many people will shrug their shoulders and assume that these teams qualify with little struggle regardless, pointing perhaps to Manchester City’s recent formality against former European champions Steaua Bucharest who they beat 5-0 away en route to the group stages. However, the success rate was actually 50% this year with Villareal and Roma losing out in their play-offs.
Italy’s Serie A stats only appear worse when you take into account that they only qualify 3 teams under the current structure whereby the 3rd placed team enters qualifying. Far from being a formality for Italy’s 3 rd best team their representatives have lost in 6 of the last 7 attempts at qualifying. UEFA have decided to award this failure by giving the Serie A an additional two automatic spots.
The world’s greatest club competition has today taken a step towards a closed shop for the big markets in a move that echoes the franchise style we see in the USA. UEFA’s cowardice when dealing with the Big 4 will stunt the development of other leagues and further enhance their hold on the game in Europe.
It is unknown yet where these additional 5 automatic spots will be taken from but we can assume that it will become harder for ambitious clubs throughout the continent to challenge for places at the top table as our representatives Dundalk have done this year.
It appears for UEFA, the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many.