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Why the Champions League is not "Champions only"

Posted by john smith on

We opened up a discussion on Social Media about having pre-qualifying for European Championship and World Cup qualifiers.

The conversation led down the route of every nation has “every right to try and qualify for a major tournament”.

This was perhaps a misinterpretation of our blog.

We were not saying that those countries did not have a right to try and qualify, but that they should face an additional round of qualifying.

The discussion then moved on to club football with the argument being made that “every champion should be in the group stages of the Champions League” and they have “more of a right to play in it ahead of 2nd, 3rd & 4th placed teams in bigger leagues”.

There is a reason why UEFA moved away from the Champions League being a Champions only competition.

Some will instantly reply “money”, but whilst this is part of the reason, it is not the main reasons.

Lets create a mythical competition where all 55 European domestic champions are in a European competition solely for Champions.

It would have Manchester City, Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, Lille, Ajax and Sporting Lisbon. But then up next would be the likes of Ranger, Zenith, RB Salzbug, Club Brugge and Dinamo Zagreb.

It would also have the likes of Teuta (Albania Champions), Connah's Quay Nomads (Wales) and Folgore (San Marino).

So you would have a competition that has 3 or 4 big teams, 10 or so mid sized teams (that would usually finish 3rd in their group) and 30+ minor teams.

Would it really be an exciting competition to have Bayern Munich win every game 10-0 in the group stages?

But the big reason is the impact it would then have on the Europa League.

If you stripped away the 2nd, 3rd and 4th placed teams from the Champions League, those teams would then drop into the Europa League.

So in this seasons Europa League you would have the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Sevilla, Manchester United, Liverpool, Juventus, AC  Milan, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig, PSG and Monaco.

Overnight the Europa League would become a much stronger competition than the Champions League.

Better teams with greater depth. And this would lead it to become a more viewed competition.

More people will tune in to Manchester United playing Barcelona than Bayern Munich against Club Brugge.

And the money followers the viewing figures.

Sponsors  and broadcasters would pay more for the Europa League than the Champions League as the games reach a wider audience. That will in turn see Europa League teams getting paid more in Europe’s secondary competition than those in the premier competition.

So imagine the scenario.

You win your league and qualify for Europe’s premier tournament. But you play less attractive teams and earn less revenue than those teams that finished behind you and qualify for Europe’s secondary competition.

It just would not make sense.

And that is why it is more important that 2nd, 3rd and 4th teams from England, Spain, or Germany are in the Champions League rather than the winners of the San Marino or Luxembourg leagues.

If the Champions League was for champions only, the tournament will die.