The pressure is mounting on UEFA to drop proposals for two “wild card” Champions League places for Europe’s elite clubs – and if the plans are scrapped, the Scottish Premiership champions could be the biggest beneficiaries.
It was widely expected that UEFA will ratify its plans at next week’s Executive Committee meeting.
However, there has been wholesale lobbying in the last fortnight since Sky Sports News highlighted the issue, from senior officials across Europe – including those from the Premier League, Scottish Premiership and the influential European Leagues organisation.
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UEFA is already committed to expanding the competition from 32 to 36 teams from 2024, but it has also announced plans for two Champions League “wild cards” to be allocated from then on.
They would be given to the clubs with the highest UEFA “coefficient” who just failed to qualify via their domestic competition – for example, if Manchester United finished fifth in the Premier League.
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The Champions League is expanding from 32 to 36 teams from 2024
But those plans met an angry response from clubs across Europe who felt the plans were unfairly weighted towards the continent’s elite, rather than based on sporting merit.
The European Leagues has led calls for the extra places to instead be given to smaller nations whose champions don’t automatically qualify for the Champions League group stages. The Scottish Premiership is one such league.
Celtic will gain direct entry into the Champions League next season – if they win the title – due to UEFA's ban on Russian clubs
And so if UEFA bows to pressure and scraps its plans for “wild cards” that would make it much more likely that future winners of the Scottish Premiership might automatically qualify for the Champions League group stages.
As things stand, this season’s Scottish Premiership winner will automatically enter the Champions League after UEFA banned Russian clubs from competing in its competitions, while next season’s champions will also go straight into the 2023/24 group stages due to Scotland’s ninth-place UEFA coefficient ranking.
However, with an expanded Champions League, if the idea for “wild cards” or coefficient places is scrapped, that would offer a further boost to Scotland’s top-flight winner in particular, who would be much more likely to gain automatic entry to the group stages from 2024.
Sky Sports News has approached UEFA for comment, but they refused, saying that no final decisions have been taken before meetings of the Club Competitions Committee and Executive Committee in Vienna on May 10.
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