Liverpool supporters’ union Spirit of Shankly slam new Champions League format as ‘slippery slope’

UEFA’s proposals would mean more costly fixtures for match-going fans and ringfenced qualification for the big clubs.

UEFA’s proposed changes to the Champions League format have been met with firm resistance by fan groups across the country.

Supporter unions such as the Spirit of Shankly have called it UEFA’s version of the Super League, which was heavily criticised before the English clubs pulled out.

UEFA are proposing a new Champions League format that would benefit bigger clubs with coefficient rankings, allowing clubs to qualify for the competition based on historic performance and not where they finish in the league.

The Super League also planned to give the Premier League’s big six uninterrupted access to the tournament without handing places on sporting merit each season.

Under the new proposals, the Champions League would expand to 36 teams that compete in a league table. The top eight qualify for the knockouts, while the next 16 battle in a play-off for the remaining eight places.

Not all teams would play each other in the league phase, however, and there would be an increase from the six group stage fixtures in the current format to 10 games.

It’s an increase that would cost the match-going fan more, according to chair of Liverpool supporters union Spirit of ShanklyJoe Blott.

“That’s a huge cost to a fan. It doesn’t even matter if you think about going to away games - I’m just thinking of home games here,” Joe says.

Joe Blott, Spirit of Shankly
Joe Blott, Spirit of Shankly
Joe Blott, Spirit of Shankly

“Another two games a season… nearly up to £200 on top of what you’re paying. That’s wrong.

“This notion that you can qualify for Europe without being in the top four is just wrong.

“The whole of football is about sporting merit and just because a club has got a bit of history behind it, that shouldn’t give them any unique status around that.

“It’s bad enough calling it the Champions League when the reality is there’s only one team in the country who were champions.”

Ultimately, Liverpool would be one of the teams to benefit from the change, as they would be safe in European competitions regardless of league performance.

However, Spirit of Shankly’s stance is because they feel if the big clubs don’t reject it, what chance do clubs fighting to reach the pinnacle of European football stand?

UEFA move all about ‘generating income’

The move has been labelled by many as a money-making exercise from UEFA, which doesn’t think about the impact on fans.

Another effect it could have according to Joe is the potential of losing domestic cup competitions.

He argues that an increased fixture list for the top teams will see them withdraw from competitions such as the League Cup and FA Cup, as well as these European fixtures being played at weekends.

Jürgen Klopp’s side have won one domestic cup and are in the final of the other this season, but the Liverpool boss has been outspoken about the prospect of more fixtures affecting player welfare.

Joe could see domestic cup competitons being hit to reduce fixtures, which would disappoint supports massively, especially after two successful trips for the Reds to Wembley already this season.

“What happens to weekend games? They were talking about playing some of these [Champions League] games at weekends.

“For me and for Spirit of Shankly, we believe that the weekend is for your bread and butter league games. Yes throw in the FA Cup if that’s what it takes, that’s our history.

“But what does that [these reforms] actually do to the FA Cup and League Cup? If a club is now playing four more games, the League Cup isn’t going to be taking place and I think the FA Cup will go on a slippery slope.”

The controversial reforms are set to take place at the beginning of the 2024 season and be in place until 2033. The UEFA Executive Committee are expected to formalise the competition changes through a vote on 10th May.

Fan power stopped the Super League and the Spirit of Shankly, along with several other supporters groups, hope the same can happen again to keep the tournament in it’s current state.