Spanish and Italian football clubs are requesting format changes to the Champions League in order to financially compete with the English Premier League, according to the Financial Times.
The clubs want more games between the continent’s “heavyweight” teams, which would increase matchday revenues and commercial prospects.
Currently, the Champions League follows a similar format to the World Cup, in which groups of four teams play each other, with only the top two of each group progressing.
Proposals for new format include an early knockout stage of 16 seeded teams playing against another 16 — which would result in 16 games for each team. The eventual winners would go on to play in two groups of eight.
A “wild card” setup has also been mooted, which would allow historically successful Champions League teams instant entry — a format that would have benefited Manchester United and AC Milan who failed to qualify for the competition this season.
However Alberto Colombo, the deputy general secretary of European Professional Football Leagues, said it would probably oppose any measures that grant entry to teams for any reason other than sporting merit, adding “It’s a matter of keeping the dream alive for any club that’s doing well on the pitch,” the Financial Times reports.
Champions League participation is a hugely lucrative source of income for clubs. Teams who qualify make at least €8.6 (£6.5 million; $9.6 million), while winning the tournament is worth €27 million (£21 million; $30 million) in prize money and potentially far more in commercial deals.
But the Premier League is by far the most valuable football division in the world, with a recent KPMG report suggesting that 5 of the top 10 most valuable clubs in the world are English.
It received a huge financial boost when Sky and BT began competing for broadcast rights, resulting in an eventual price tag of €2.4 billion (£1.8 billion; $2.7 billion) per season.
Spain, meanwhile, has two of the biggest teams in the world in Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, but the collective value of the teams in La Liga are said to be worth less than half of those in the Premiership. It can take solace in the fact that two of its teams — Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid — are playing in the Champions League final on Saturday.
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