UEFA sells Champions League short

The Champions League needs to adopt the NFL format. Where every game counts

NFL - bigger than UCL

There is no doubt that football is a more popular  sport than American football.  Yet, Uefa’s annual income from the Champions League, the strongest football league in the world, is about €1.108 billion. While National Football League’s income is more than €6.3 billion.

With its pan-European status, a quasi-monopoly on the biggest sporting brands on the continent and its popularity around the world (especially in the developing markets of Asia), the Champions League should make a lot more money than it does.

Most of the clubs agree on this and 2014 is the year they might change everything.


There are many reasons the US sporting model makes better economic sense than its European counterpart: there are no relegations; there are fierce regulations regarding wages and revenues are shared between clubs.

However, The Champions League’s structure is a major reason Uefa isn’t as economically successful as the NFL. It’s probably been outdated since the nineties. If a version of the NFL’s format would be adopted, the Champions League could become not only the most popular annual sports tournament in the world, but also the the richest.

For instance, it just makes sense that the best football clubs in the world face each other on regular basis. If not, it’s like a tennis season in which Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal do not meet.


So, what special about the NFL format that makes it successful?  The format is complex yet, there’s a pretty simple idea behind it: “Make every game important”.

Every game in the NFL is important because, first, the league is short. Second, the league is divided into geographical divisions and the scheduling formula dictates that teams with a similar performance level play each other. So basically, each team play their games against a division rival or a team that is of a similar level. So every game is a type of a Derby or at least a legitimate sporting battle.

Some elements of the NFL format should be adapted to a European culture and schedule.


A European Super League comprised of the top 30 or 32 clubs in Europe (divided into divisions) that sees every team play at least ten “regular season” games against ten different teams (five home, five away) in which they fight for home advantage in the knockout phase (no second leg) – would turn every game into an interesting contest.

That means that from the 30 or 32 clubs in the Champions League only the best 12 teams during the regular season will reach the knock out stage. A team would play a maximum of 14 games leaving them with plenty of time to focus on domestic competition.

The European Super League should also be closed for two or even five seasons. The worse performing clubs in those years will be relegated to the “Europa League” (Super League B) that will send two replacements that performed excellently in those 5 years.

Teams who did well over the five years in their domestic competition will fight in a qualifying round to enter the Super League B, instead of the two or three poorest performing clubs in those five years.

The new league would not kill the local leagues, just as the NFL doesn’t kill the NCAA (college) Football League. Quite the opposite the enlarged solidarity payments (derived from the larger income) would, with proper regulation, be invested in grass roots and infrastructure improving the level of football and football administration.

Would it hurt small football nations? Not necessarily. Teams from smaller nations would have to adopt a more organised economic set up before taking their chances against the big guns of European football.

At the moment, some teams, who at times are run in an amateurish way, need only one good domestic season. Then a favourable draw can place them in the most popular sports league in the world.

At the end of the day, TV companies and sponsors, (AKA “money”) make the world go around and they will definitely pay more for a league that every week features games such as Barcelona vs Manchester United, Arsenal VS Real Madrid, Chelsea VS Milan, Inter VS Bayern Munich. That’s because this kind of league is a lot more marketable than The Champions League that every week features games such as Twente VS Inter, Benfica VS Hapoel Tel Aviv, CFR Cluj VS Manchester United or even Barcelona VS MŠK Žilina.

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