Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham won’t be playing in the European Super League next season after withdrawing from the proposed new competition.
But whether or not they will be in the Champions League or Europa League next season also remains to be seen, with all three sides facing a battle to qualify for European competition as the 2020/21 campaign reaches its climax.
Chelsea, who are due to play Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals, moved above West Ham and back into fourth in the Premier League with a point in a goalless draw with Brighton at Stamford Bridge last night, while Spurs host Southampton tonight looking to close the gap to the blues, being five points behind in seventh.
Arsenal, meanwhile, currently sit ninth in the table, nine points behind Chelsea and seven behind Liverpool in sixth, with winning the Europa League looking like the Gunners’ most realistic route into European football next season, being in the semi-finals of this season’s competition.
However, the future of European competitions could look very different for the trio, with UEFA recently approving a new format for its club competitions from the 2024/25 season.
The “Swiss model” Champions League reforms will see the competition expanded to 36 teams from 2024 and the proposed structure will include a transformation from the traditional group stage to a single league stage including all participating teams.
This would see teams play 10 games against ten different opponents, with the top eight sides after the “group stage” qualifying automatically for the knockout stage, with teams in ninth to 24th competing in a two-legged play-off to secure a place in the last 16.
Similar format changes will happen in the Europa League too with eight matches in the league stage and the new UEFA Europa Conference League, with six matches in the league stage, while UEFA have said in a statement that these two competitions may also be expanded to a total of 36 teams in the league stage, subject to further discussions and agreements.
Qualification for the Champions League would still be via domestic leagues, while a fifth place could be on offer for clubs in England, with an additional place set to be awarded for the club ranked third in the championship in of the association in fifth position of the UEFA national association rankings, and another to a domestic champion by extending from four to five the number of clubs qualifying via the ‘Champions Path’.
Two other places would go to clubs with the highest coefficient over the last five years that have not qualified for the Champions League group stage, but have qualified either for the qualification phase, the Europa League or the Europa Conference League.
Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish has been among the most vocal critics of the reform, describing it as having “a quite devastating effect on domestic competition”, but the changes could be good news for Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur.
That could mean a scenario where one of the capital’s big three finish sixth in the Premier League but still qualify for the Champions League on the back of their coefficient ranking.
Such a proposal has been deemed unfair on clubs who do not have a history in the competition. West Ham are currently fifth in the Premier League table with Spurs seventh – but under the new rules the latter could still end up in the biggest club competition because of their coefficient standing.
But UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has said he feels the evolved format would keep alive the dream for any club to participate in the Champions League.
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In a statement outlining the changes, as approved by a UEFA executive committee, he said: “This new format supports the status and future of the domestic game throughout Europe as well. It retains the principle that domestic performance should be the key to qualification and reconfirms the principles of solidarity right through the game and of open competition.
“This evolved format will still keep alive the dream of any team in Europe to participate in the UEFA Champions League thanks to results obtained on the pitch and it will enable long-term viability, prosperity, and growth for everyone in European football, not just a tiny, self-selected cartel.
“Football is a social and cultural treasure, enriched with values, traditions and emotions shared across our continent. As the governing body and responsible stewards of the European game, it is UEFA’s role to safeguard this legacy while leading positive future development of football in Europe for national associations, leagues, clubs, players, and fans at every level. This is why we had an extensive consultation process over the last two years which led to the unanimous backing of our proposal and we are convinced that these reforms achieve those objectives.”