‘Is no one thinking of the players?’ – Gundogan calls for review of new Champions League format

Stefan Bienkowski
‘Is no one thinking of the players?’ – Gundogan calls for review of new Champions League format

Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan has called upon UEFA to reconsider the reforms to the Champions League reforms for the sake of the players and fans of the sport. 

Amidst the fracas of the break-away Super League, the European governing body voted through changes to the continental competition that would expand it from 32 to 36 teams. 

While that may seem like a welcome change, UEFA also proposed to change the format of the competition so the group stages were replaced by a single league campaign, which would allow Europe’s biggest clubs to play each other more often over the course of the season. 

READ MORE: How the Bundesliga stood in opposition to the Super League and won

Compared to the disastrous and now doomed Super League, the new Champions League format has received very little criticism. 

However, Gundogan is now urging the authorities to reconsider the changes to a competition he believes is beloved by fans across the world. 

“With all the Super League stuff going on… can we please also speak about the new Champions League format?” said Gundogan on Twitter

“More and more and more games, is no one thinking about us players? The new Champions League format is just the lesser of the two evils in comparison to the Super League…”

“The Champions League format right now works great and that is why it’s the most popular club competition in the world – for us players and for the fans.”

What is the new Champions League format? 

The proposed reforms are reported to be the brainchild of the Dutch ex-goalkeeper and current Ajax CEO Edwin Van der Sar. The reforms are to replace the current home-and-away round-robin group stage of 32 teams before a round of 16 knock-out with a 36-team ‘Swiss-model’ league following by a Round of 16 knock-out.

Within the 36 team league, each team will play 10 matches against 10 different opponents, five home and five away. After 10 group stage fixtures, the top eight clubs will progress to knock-out stage. Teams placed nine to 25 would enter a play-off to determine the additional eight clubs to make up the round of 16. From the round of 16, the two-legged ties will remain leading to the showpiece final.

The fixtures will be based upon seedings and performance within the competition; with the theory that all teams play an equal number of games against high-, medium- and lower-ranked sides. 

The Swiss model is based upon the premise that teams play a set number of games rather than facing every other team in the league and is widely used in sports such as chess where league, group-stage or straight-knockout formats are ill-suited.

Under the reform plans, clubs finishing in the top eight will be guaranteed qualification for next season’s tournament. Furthermore, three of the additional four places generated in the competition are to be allocated to clubs based upon historical performance in the competition. For example, under this system a place could be allocated to Liverpool for the 2022/2023 Champions League should the Reds finish outside the top four in the Premier League.

These changes would increase the number of games in the Champions League proper from the current 125 to 225.