UEFA is considering the implementation of a new Champions League which excludes smaller clubs and assures elite teams of continued participation in the competition, regardless of how they fare domestically.
The restructure seen in documents obtained by the Associated Press on Wednesday indicates Europe's most prestigious tournament would begin for the 2024-25 season and still comprise of 32 clubs. However, 24 teams would remain in the competition the following campaign even if they finish below the top four in their respective countries' top tier.
The numbers are then made up by the promotion of four semifinalists from the continent's secondary competition - currently named the Europa League - and four domestic league champions qualifying for "League 1" through preliminary rounds.
To accommodate the four clubs promoted from the secondary competition, four outfits are relegated from "League 1" to "League 2."
The groups would also be condensed. Rather than the current structure of eight groups of four clubs, there would instead be four groups of eight. This configuration would result in more group-stage matches before a familiar 16-team knockout phase.
The proposal is the brainchild of the European Club Association (ECA), a group headed by Juventus owner Andrea Agnelli and driven to defend the wealth and status of the continent's biggest clubs.
Ajax were merely seconds from reaching the final of the latest edition of the Champions League on Wednesday, but The New York Times' Tariq Panja points out those captivating underdog stories would be a rarity if the potential shake-up is enforced. Ajax finished second in last term's Eredivisie, so the club would have been denied a place in the qualification rounds for a revised Champions League and instead likely ushered into preliminary matches that determine participants in the second-tier competition.
There would be an additional third-tier tournament under these plans which is currently labeled as "League 3." Sixty-four teams are earmarked for that particular competition.
Although ECA representatives and UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin have insisted they are only in early talks and merely discussing ideas, La Liga president Javier Tebas was less positive after Wednesday's meeting. Tebas continues to front an ambitious and successful bid to boost the Spanish first division's worldwide appeal and clearly sees a restructured Champions League as detrimental to that project.
"We cannot accept that these are just plans and proposals for an open discussion with stakeholders about the future of professional football," Tebas told The New York Times. "In reality, we were presented with a concrete project developed by UEFA in full cooperation with a small group of rich and powerful European clubs to reform European club competitions after 2024 in a format that could destroy domestic competitions and the sporting and financial sustainability of the vast majority of clubs in Europe.
"We are open for a constructive dialogue to reform European football together with other stakeholders, but if this is the project on the table, then the margins for negotiations are very limited."
One further factor which could drastically change the landscape of the domestic game is the possibility of matches being staged on weekends to accommodate a new bloated group-stage format.