Europe’s top four leagues will have four guaranteed places in the Champions League group stage from the 2018-19 season, UEFA has confirmed.
The top four leagues in the UEFA coefficient ranking — currently La Liga, the Bundesliga, Premier League and Serie A — will see four teams enter the group stage without having to go through a qualification round.
Currently, La Liga, the Bundesliga and the Premier League are guaranteed three group spots, with a fourth possible through the qualifying round, while Serie A has two guaranteed spots and a third possible via qualification.
The Premier League was in danger of losing one its places to Serie A at the end of this season, particularly after Sassuolo qualified for this season’s Europa League group stage while West Ham were eliminated, but both leagues will now get four Champions League spots.
The top flights in Russia, Portugal and France are currently all vying to be Europe’s fifth-ranked division but are some distance behind the current top four.
However, the coefficient system will be revamped with clubs judged only on their own records and historical success in European competition also acknowledged.
UEFA has also confirmed that the Europa League winners will now automatically qualify for the Champions League group stage. At present the winners enter at the playoff stage by right, but are elevated to the group stage if the holders also qualify via league position.
The revamp will also involve a change to the way in which clubs are paid, with UEFA explaining: “A new four-pillar financial distribution system (starting fee, performance in the competition, individual club coefficient and market pool) will see sporting performances better rewarded, while market pool share will decrease.”
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Sources had told ESPN FC earlier this month that the measures were set to be approved after tough negotiations, with a number of clubs from top leagues having threatened to boycott the Champions League if their demands were not met.
The threat of a breakaway European Super League had appeared significant earlier this year, and Press Association Sport reports that the biggest push for change has come from Spain and Italy, the nation that looks set to benefit the most from the alteration.
UEFA general secretary ad interim Theodore Theodoridis said: “The evolution of UEFA’s club competitions is the result of a wide-ranging consultative process involving all stakeholders and taking into account a wide range of expertise and perspectives.
“The amendments made will continue to ensure qualification based on sporting merit, and the right of all associations and their clubs to compete in Europe’s elite club competitions.
“We are happy that European football remains united behind the concepts of solidarity, fair competition, fair distribution and good governance.”
Adjustments to the current format of the Champions League can only begin in 2018 as that is when the next three-year commercial cycle starts.
Information from the Press Association was used in this report.
Culled from ESPNFC