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Champions League plot leaves me with a frog in my throat

Juventus chief Andrea Agnelli is one of the driving forces behind the proposed new Champions League format (Picture: Getty)

Most people want more Champions League group games in the same way they want more Japanese knotweed, Crazy Frog records or a continuation of the global pandemic.

It’s already a bloated tournament that, bar the odd crunch game, has a group stage that sees even the most enthusiastic of football fanatic flirting openly with the Netflix button.

Now, a tournament crying out to be streamlined and returned to its former glory could be about to be fattened up further through an expansion to 36 teams, ten group games and safety nets for the ‘richest of the rich’.

In fact, given the actual finances of the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid, it is more accurate to refer to them as ‘too big to fail’.

Under this new ‘Swiss’ system, those historically successful sides who head Uefa’s coefficient rankings don’t even need to bother finishing in the top four every season as they’ll have the luxury of invitational slots to save their bacon, should they need them.

The new format is only likely to strengthen the stranglehold of top European clubs like PSG and Barcelona
The new format is only likely to strengthen the stranglehold of top European clubs like PSG and Barcelona (Picture: Getty)

The clubs with the biggest historical pull will be pampered and protected by a strategic status quo, and offered the chance in an expanded group stage to play each other ad nauseam. Well, they already do that, so maybe we need to coin a new phrase. Eternal purgatory, perhaps. All the while, they’ll pull in even more cash.

It is a form of European Super League, a kind of Project Big Picture. It may be a lower category of hurricane but it is still going to smash up our house.

More European games mean Champions League football every month of the season in a schedule already buckling under the weight of fixtures, so domestic football will inevitably suffer.

Calls to reduce the number of clubs in the Premier League are already audible, which requires a column all to itself, but it is more likely our already beleaguered and belittled domestic cup competitions will be pushed over the edge. The League Cup, already treated as an afterthought by many, will be lucky to make it through in any state worth taking seriously.

The sheriff of this self-interest is Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli (who is also chairman of the European Club Association and is on the Uefa Executive Committee. Yes, that makes perfect sense. Can’t see any suggestion of a conflict of interest there whatsoever.

Agnelli is obviously just the mouthpiece for the usual mob who are once again trying to wring more money out of football, feeding on a carcass that surely doesn’t have much meat left on it.

So, it makes little sense to focus all the rage on him, although it is worth noting he brought Ronaldo to Turin in order to recapture European glory, which once again spectacularly blew up in his face this week. You just hate to see it, don’t you?

Rather sadly, I almost didn’t bother writing about this, because I have long since given up hope that addressing these kinds of things will make a difference.

I have certainly lost count of the number of columns I’ve composed over the years addressing these similar issues, and there are certain other journalists who always do the same, year in year out, yet here we are.

Yes, the pen may have once been mightier than the sword but it has long since come out second best in the battle against corporate greed, sporting or otherwise.

The bottom line is enough of a huge global audience will continue to tune in, picking up the tab with an ever-growing list of TV subscriptions. Whether it’s this plan or the next one that comes down the pipeline, Agnelli and his type will eventually have the last laugh.

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