UEFA are said to be planning a major change to the Champions League group stage, and Celtic will surely be watching closely.
Over the years, there have been several changes to the structure of UEFA’s biggest competition. The first edition of the European Cup came back in 1955 and involved one-off two-legged ties. It then changed in 1992 to two knockout rounds followed by two separate groups where the winners would meet in the final.
We also had the dreadful back-to-back group stage format before the competition reverted back to one group followed by knockout ties from the last-16 onwards. It’s been the latter format since 2003, but big changes could be set to happen once again.
Bayern Munich chairman Karl Heinz Rummenigge has hinted at the prospect of changes in comments published by the Daily Record today:
“The biggest problem of the Champions League is currently the Group Stage because this threatens to get a little boring. I know UEFA are working on a plan that will make that stage of the competition more attractive.
“People will like what they come up with – I’m convinced of that too. Last season’s method of elimination from the quarter finals was exhilarating. The Super Bowl in the United States is a good example. That sounds good to my ears.”
UEFA Champions League revamp could work; financial opportunities must be there for Celtic and co
These definitely sound like the comments of a representative of a European heavyweight. The group stages of the Champions League certainly won’t be boring to the likes of Celtic. In fact, there’s nothing more exhilarating for us than a full Parkhead on a European night.
It’s difficult to see what format could be put in place to replace the groups however. The fact Rummenigge is referencing last season’s mini-tournament is interesting though. UEFA scheduled a competition in Portugal that decided winners by one-off matches from the quarter-finals onwards.
Surely, that’s not something that would be put in place for the entire tournament. That would mean the lesser clubs would see lesser opportunities for financial gain undoubtedly. Clubs like Celtic have six huge opportunities to bag seven-figure sums for Group Stage wins. In those rare years we qualify of course.
It’s also not something you could see too many bigger clubs being enthused with either. It could mean one slip-up and they’re out of the competition. UEFA wouldn’t like that too much either. Everyone loves an underdog, but if some of their major big-hitters go out early then it’ll frustrate them. They want Europe’s biggest and richest in the latter stages.
But that’s probably me just jumping to conclusions. We at least have to give UEFA the opportunity to present a plan before ridiculing it! It’s just key that any new group stage revamp includes the same financial opportunities that currently exists. Otherwise, it only pushes clubs like Celtic further away from Europe’s elite.
We’re far enough away from that as it is.