The three remaining members of the failed European Super League face expulsion from the Champions League. A Madrid court authorised UEFA to sanction the clubs involved – Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus. Their president, Aleksander Ceferin, says that his organisation intends to act once the appeals process has taken its course.
They were among the original 12 members of the EFL that was launched in a blaze of publicity last April, only to stop dead in its tracks after a furious backlash from fans, football officials, and national governments. All six English clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – hastily withdrew, as did the two Milan clubs, AC and Inter, and Atlético Madrid.
However, the three remaining teams refused to abandon the concept. Real Madrid present Florentino Pérez continues to insist that the teams that backed out of the ESL had no right to do so, because they had all signed irrevocable contracts.
It has never been made clear how the trio intended to pursue the idea, given the toxic air surrounding the proposal from the rest of football. To try and head off the ESL, UEFA has announced plans to expand the Champions League from 32 to 36 teams from 2024. Each team will now play eight group games over ten match weeks.
However, a controversial element of the new plan has been shelved. The initial suggestion was that two places in the Champions League would be awarded to clubs based on their past European performance. This would have prevented meant that certain teams were not in the competition based on current merit. This, for many, carried too many elements of the “closed shop”, something the ESL espoused.
Instead, two of the four new places will be awarded based on the performance of a country’s clubs in Europe over the previous season. The other two spots will go to the country standing fifth in their coefficient rankings, and the domestic champions of a country that does not gain automatic entry into the group stages but must go through a qualifying competition first.