Celtic will be watching very closely on Monday with UEFA set to give final approval to a controversial new Champions League set-up.
The executive committee will discuss the much-talked-about 36-team format in two days.
There now appears to be no barrier to its implementation from 2024, despite the protests of fan groups around Europe.
The Guardian reports meetings between the European Club Association board, of which Peter Lawwell is a member [ECA], and UEFA’s club competitions committee on Friday appear to have cleared the way for the new format to be rubber-stamped.
What changes will be made?
It’s expected that the current group stage format will be thrown out, replaced by an all-inclusive table of 36 teams.
Club coefficient will be used to rank all the clubs from one to 36. Teams will then given five home games and five away games against 10 different opponents of varying strengths.
The top eight teams in the league go through to the last 16. The next 16 teams would go into a play-off round for the last 16. Further teams then drop into the Europa League knockout stage.
It’s fair to say the plans aren’t universally popular. Many fan groups around Europe are up in arms.
Supporters from 15 groups around Europe wrote an open letter to ECA Chairman Andrea Agnelli stating, in part: “Your plans to restructure the Champions League by increasing the number of games, introducing qualification based on past achievements, and monopolising commercial rights present a serious threat to the entire game.
“Instead of realising your supposed goal of “building a successful, sustainable, and socially responsible football industry”, you will only make the gap between the rich and the rest bigger, wreck domestic calendars, and expect fans to sacrifice yet more time and money.”
Celtic will be desperate for Champions League future
Obviously, there’s a long time to go until 2024, but with TV rights and prize money set to soar, as well as the opportunity to earn more cash from extra games, this is all of supreme relevance to Celtic.
Celtic will be well aware of the proposed changes. The club has navigated a way to the heart of power at the ECA.
Outgoing CEO Lawwell has served as an Executive Board Member of the ECA since March 2014 and a member of the UEFA Club Competitions Committee since 2015. He was also elected as one of ECA’s four representatives on UEFA’s Professional Football Strategy Council in August 2017.
Next season’s Scottish Premiership champions are set to earn an automatic group stage place for the 2022/23 tournament. That’s likely the final year of the current format.