Arsene Wenger against Champions League reform: ‘I don’t like it’


rsene Wenger is against proposed changes to the current Champions League format, warning clubs that football fans will be turned off if the competition is watered down.

Uefa’s plans for the Champions League will see the group stages transformed into a ‘single table’ format instead of the current eight groups of four teams, and with 36 teams rather than 32 involved.

The changes mean there would be 225 matches in the competition compared to 125 now.

Europe’s top leagues, including the Premier League, want Uefa to reconsider their proposed changes to the Champions League amid concerns over congestion from 100 extra matches.

The European Leagues body, which represents the domestic championships, wants to see changes to the proposals to ensure greater access to clubs from smaller leagues and has expressed concern over the increased number of games.

Two of those extra slots are earmarked for the highest ranked teams in Uefa’s ‘coefficient’ rankings based on the past five years of performances, opening the likelihood of the top leagues having more than their current four slots.

However, former Arsenal manager Wenger believes that seeing an elite competition such as the Champions League expanded would dilute the “sporting merit” of the competition and risk losing fans rather than drawing them in.

Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal career in numbers

Speaking about the proposals to BeIN SPORTS, Wenger explained: “Look, to make it simple and honest, I would say the clubs always want more money.

“To get more money, they want more guaranteed games. The fans want more games of significance, that means they want games with meaning.

“Modern football has to find a compromise between what the clubs want – more money – and what the fans want – simplicity, clarity and competition of meaning.

“In between, you have now the media who start to dictate what should happen, so that will be, honestly, a huge battle in the future.

“Personally, I think the model that is proposed for the modern Champions League, I don’t like it at all.”

Asked whether he would like the model more were he still Arsenal manager – especially given the Gunners would be more likely to benefit from the changes considering their recent Premier League struggles, Wenger doubled down.

“I would not like it at all, because I think as long as we in the game don’t respect the sporting merit in a logical way, we are not right, and I would think all people who play top-level competition would say you have to keep the merit of the quality of your performance.”

Would more games mean more excitement?

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Jaco Swart, CEO of European Leagues, told the Financial Times’ Business of Football summit on Wednesday: “We think it is too much.

“It is not only the number of matches, but the number of match days it could lead to a shift in value from domestic competition to international competition.”

Charlie Marshall, the chief executive of the European Club Association, which represents the continent’s major clubs, was more positive about the plans, saying that the system would create a “strong product”.

“We have less alarm bells ringing around this proposal, there is a reasonable amount of hysteria and reactionism going on,” he said.

“We feel more European matches are important in the development of football, we absolutely feel there is more room to play more European games and… we would like to see the reshaping happen that can enable that.”

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