How Champions League reforms could affect the Premier League’s ‘race for fourth place’ with reforms close to conclusion
The Champions League reforms could, in some seasons, eliminate the “race for fourth place” in the Premier League.
The European Club Association has agreed on changes to the Champions League from 2024-25 onward.
It has sent the proposal to UEFA for UEFA to discuss next month, and that proposal is expected to be approved.
The proposed changes enlarge the Champions League to 36 teams, rather than the current 32, and two of those extra places will go to teams based on their “historical significance” rather than their performance in the previous season.
That means if a club has a high enough ranking within UEFA, it could finish outside of the standard Champions League spots and still qualify.
In this case, if a team in Premier League finishes fifth and is the best-ranked to have not already qualified, then it would get one of those two spots.
However, if the team that finishes fifth isn’t the highest-ranked team, it doesn’t get that spot.
If the team in fifth earned one of those two spots through its UEFA ranking, then the team in sixth could get the other spot if its UEFA ranking is also high enough.
As all of the Premier League’s “big six” of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Tottenham Hotspur have high UEFA rankings.
It is feasible that they could all qualify for the Champions League if they all made up the top six in the Premier League.
UEFA and the “big six” teams all benefit from these Champions League reforms as it increases the chances of those teams being in the Champions League.
But at the same time, it could make the Premier League less dramatic.
There are essentially four battles each season in the Premier League: the battle for the title, the battle to be in the top four, the battle for the other European spots, and the battle to avoid relegation.
The new Champions League proposals mean that in some seasons, one of those battles could effectively not exist.
That would mean less interest in Premier League matches involving several of the “big six”, the league’s biggest draws, in the latter stages of the season.
These changes could see the Premier League getting fewer viewers than it might have otherwise done, especially if the top sides don’t play their star players once Champions League qualification is assured.