This is what the new-look Champions League could look like
UEFA planning to shake up their premier competition
There have been rumours swirling, but it looks like plans are finally being settled on how to revitalise the Champions League in the coming seasons.
Europe (and arguably the world's) leading club competition has been under pressure recently from a variety of angles: the huge financial clout that the Premier League will have from next season, with its £5.14bn domestic TV deal and an expected £2.37bn from international rights making it a more glamorous and interesting competition; the worry of established English clubs that their place at the top table is no longer secure because of this injection of cash; the desire to avoid matches with low viewing figures featuring minnow clubs from elsewhere in Europe; but also criticism from many fans who do not want the competition to be a closed shop.
There had been strong suggestions that a European Super League was about to be formed, but to their credit, UEFA seems to have found a compromise amongst these competing interests.
The proposal, revealed by 'sources at a major Premier League club' involves the creation of a group stage comprised of 16 teams, split into two mini 'super leagues' of eight teams. The top 16 seeded clubs would enter the competition in a single knockout round of 32, preceding the 'super league' stage, with none able to be drawn against each other. Prior to this stage, all of the other 'lesser' European teams would play knockout qualifiers - probably two or three rounds with teams of varying strength entering at different points, as currently operates.
Thus, the 16 big seeds would still face an element of risk before reaching the security of the league stage - which would guarantee 14 matches before either semi-finals and a final, or simply a final between the two group winners - but the format would heavily minimise the chances of them exiting beforehand.
However, for a competition eager to avoid matches with low viewing figures, we already sense the possibility of a hell of a lot of dead rubbers in the super league stage if only the top one or two teams in each group can progress to the final stages.
Any changes are unlikely to come into effect before the 2018-19 season as the competition is currently in the first year of a three-year TV deal, so there's plenty of time for alternative proposals to come to the fore.
What do you think of the possible new format? Let us know below.