Plans that would enable clubs to qualify for the Champions League based on historic performance and not their league position are back on the table, a year after the collapse of the European Super League.
Members of the European Club Association, an organization which includes 10 Premier League sides, are to lobby Uefa to allow two teams to qualify for Europe’s elite club competition based in part on their coefficient, a metric calculated according to continental performance over the five previous seasons .
The Guardian understands that the proposals would see clubs who finish outside Champions League places in their domestic leagues, but qualify for the Europa League or win a domestic cup, compete for two places which would then be decided by coefficient ranking.
The proposals have been discussed within the Club Competitions Committee working group, which sees senior members of the ECA work on competition reforms with Uefa. They are also likely to be raised at the organization’s General Assembly in Vienna this week.
Allowing clubs to qualify for the Champions League via club coefficient were part of original plans to expand the competition approved by Uefa last year. At the time they were seen as allowing big clubs to guarantee a place in the competition even if they failed to qualify on merit by league position.
Following the collapse of the European Super League and public concerns over preserving ‘sporting integrity’, Uefa said the reforms could be adjusted. Speaking earlier this month at the Financial Times Business of Football summit, the governing body’s president, Alexander Ceferin, said that while the means of qualification for two additional sides had not been confirmed, it would mean “more places for smaller and mainly mid-sized leagues”.
Any reversion to using a coefficient as basis for qualification, however, is likely to benefit clubs from bigger European Leagues, where there are more qualifying spots to start with and where teams tend to dominate the latter stages of tournaments. A club in a big league can even see its own coefficient boosted if other clubs in their division are successful in Europe.
The proposals will prove divisive. The European Leagues organization which represents domestic competitions across the continent is against qualification by coefficient, as are a number of fan organisations. One leading fan group, Football Supporters’ Europe, this weekend launched an initiative called Win it on the Pitch that calls for the reform of EU law which, among other things, would ensure “qualification to Europe via domestic success”.
The issue remains a sore point within the Premier League, too. While the league’s biggest clubs are ECA members, including all six of the breakaway Super League sides, other clubs are increasingly vocal about competitive imbalance within the division, one they see as being furthered by Uefa reforms.
Last year’s plans for a Super League were led by the then-chairman of the ECA, Andrea Agnelli, who subsequently resigned from his role. Juventus, where Agnelli is chairperson, have also left the organization, alongside fellow Super League clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona, with the chairman of the ECA now Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi.
Sources close to the ECA confirmed that discussions with Uefa over Champions League reform remained ongoing, but insisted any final decision would be made by the governing body.