01 June 2019, Spain, Madrid: Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp lifts the UEFA Champions League Trophy after winning the UEFA†Champions League final soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. Photo: Jan Woitas/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa

Latest proposals could see Premier League lose fourth spot in Champions League

The Premier League‘s automatic qualification spots for the Champions League could be reduced to three from 2021, in a proposal aiming to combat insularity.

Europe’s top-tier tournament has been the subject of considerable debate within the European Club Association (ECA) in recent months as plans to revamp the current setup continue.

This has included a possible expansion to a 48-team competition, or alternatively a ‘closed’ structure that would see the same high-profile clubs qualify each year—the latter of which was unanimously opposed by the Premier League.

Scrutiny of these ideas should be welcomed, as they are primarily focused on the monetary gain of the elite, edging closer to the much-vaunted European ‘super league’.

Opposing these suggestions, the European League Association (ELA) has proposed new measures that would provide further competitive and financial inclusion of those outside of the top level.

According to the Mail, the ELA have planned that “all the top leagues would be limited to just three automatic qualifiers from 2021,” with fourth requiring a playoff, while a new payment scheme would also be introduced.

This would abolish the current initiative that sees coefficient ranking dictate £525 million in payments based on performances in the Champions League over the past 10 years—in other words, the rich becoming richer.

MUNICH, GERMANY - Wednesday, March 13, 2019: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 2nd Leg match between FC Bayern M¸nchen and Liverpool FC at the Allianz Arena. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Instead, ELA president Lars-Christer Olsson believes “solidarity” should be the focus, as he explained at the Leaders in Sport Conference this week.

“We are saying we should look into the financial distribution as a whole and our message is that the solidarity has to increase,” Olsson argued.

“Twenty to 25 percent of the money has to go to solidarity payments. The historical coefficient would be a good place to look for money.

“The big leagues are prepared to participate in this discussion for something new if they are treated the same.

“But if you are giving four positions to the Premier League and taking one away from the Bundesliga then you have a problem.”

The Bundesliga joined the Premier League in unanimous opposition of the ECA’s proposals, as did 17 of 20 clubs from Ligue 1 (with three abstaining)—but Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madrid were in favour.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, October 2, 2019: Liverpool supporters on the Spion Kop with a banner "Champions of Europe" during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Liverpool FC and FC Salzburg at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

This presents a key sticking point if these plans were to be taken seriously, with Juventus chairman, and conveniently head of the ECA, Andrea Agnelli arguing that football must focus on high-profile European games to ensure longevity.

“We will now have to tackle a shift in consumer behaviour. We’re looking at generation Z, the new digital natives who are turning into adulthood,” Agnelli explained.

“We should seriously start to think that the competitors of of the game today are not other sports, clubs next door or in the next countries but League of Legends, esports or Fortnite.

“I think those are going to be the ones who are going to be our competitors going forward.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, October 2, 2019: FC Salzburg's Takumi Minamino (L) celebrates scoring the second goal with team-mate Dal Varesanovic during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Liverpool FC and FC Salzburg at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Agnelli did add, however: “We will find a way to agree to find a system that allows everybody to grow from within without being left aside because of a birth defect, because of where they were born.”

Liverpool have finished in the Premier League‘s top four in the past three seasons, but were required to qualify via the playoffs in 2017 due to the previous setup; this could be the case again from 2021.