Top leagues win big in UEFA changes to Champions League


August 27, 2016
Arsenal's Danny Welbeck (right) flies through the air following a tackle by Barcelona's Gerard Pique during the Champions League round of 16 first leg football match between Arsenal and Barcelona at the Emirates stadium London, on Tuesday, February 23. (AP Photo)


In a power shift toward Europe's wealthiest clubs, UEFA has agreed to give more guaranteed Champions League group-stage places to the four highest-ranked leagues. Spain, Germany, England and Italy each get four slots from the 2018-19 season.

UEFA also promises that annual prize money to the 32 group-stage teams worth 1.32 billion euros ($1.49 billion) this season will be "increased significantly" for the three seasons through 2021.

UEFA announced the deal yesterday after months of talks with the influential European Club Association, whose members raised an old threat of breaking away to form a closed Super League dominated by the rich and storied elite.

"I welcome UEFA's decision, it reflects a serious and fair solution for European club football," Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the chairman of the ECA and Bayern Munich, said in a statement.

Still, the deal to give 16 guaranteed group-stage places instead of 11 currently to clubs from the big-four leagues will inevitable squeeze teams from lower-ranked leagues.

"UEFA, the clubs, the leagues and the national associations speak with one voice on these matters," UEFA said in a statement.

Italy is the big winner in the new agreement, which had to be completed this year to let UEFA start selling broadcasting and sponsorship rights for the 2018-21 commercial cycle.

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