New Heights and Old Grudges as Turkey Crowns Its Champion

by 24USATVMay 14, 2022, 8 a.m. 15
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At a meeting in sun-dappled Vienna this week, the framework for the future of the Champions League was finally approved. And after months of wrangling, the structure of what will be a redesigned 36-team competition starting in 2024 looks much the same as it did when it was first proposed in the days before the Super League teams — led by, among others, this season’s finalists Real Madrid and Liverpool — tried their failed putsch.

Under pressure from the biggest leagues, who complained of too many matches, the number of group stage games was reduced to eight from a proposed 10. And in the other notable change, two of the extra four places in the event will not now go to clubs with historically strong track records in European competition but who failed to qualify on merit.

What does it all mean? Well, since the extra places have been earmarked for the leagues with the best record in Europe the previous season, that most likely means even more Champions League spots for teams from the biggest, richest and most powerful league of them all: the Premier League. It’s also a reminder that for all their fighting and sniping and suing, UEFA and the dirty dozen need one another more than they care to admit. It is the big clubs, after all, who drive the billion-dollar television contracts, the multimillion-dollar sponsorship deals, the big ratings for all those midweek classics in UEFA’s showcase competition.

But it also suggests European soccer leaders have blown their big chance, and maybe their best chance in years, to recalibrate European soccer in ways that would give more teams more chances to stand on level ground with the biggest and richest clubs, and break up what looks like a stratifying elite.

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