I really do think that the optimum answer to this question is to not only let the biggest clubs strike out on their own… but to actively promote the ideal of competitiveness.
At least that way, UEFA will be being seen to be involved and will ultimately have some say in the concept, rather than being subverted by a ‘rebel rump’ as it were.
I’d suggest that maybe 16 teams should be encouraged to form (I suppose) the Euro. Super League and with UEFA involvement in a positive manner, they could help to ensure that this does not become the ‘closed shop’ that is suspected would otherwise be the case. These teams would play in a proper League round-robin of 30 matches seasonally and would not be involved in their own domestic Leagues, although I would not exclude them from their domestic Cups necessarily.
They would also play in a League Cup competition, maybe four groups of four round-robin with four winners to semi-final k/o rounds and I’d also suggest that they could play in a Euro F.A. Cup competition on similar lines to the domestic ones. In this competition, sixteen non ESL teams would challenge and this would be a straight k/o competition over 5 rounds. The sixteen challengers would be the final sixteen teams in the ‘rump’ Champions’ League competition (which itself would exclude the ESL teams !).
The bottom two teams would be subject to re-election at the end of every Season and into the election ‘hat’ would be emplaced the Champions’ League winners & runners-up. The vote for the elections would be from 16 ESL shares plus one share each from European affiliated Associations, ensuring that the ‘closed shop’ is not possible, yet continuing to ensure some reasonable stability for teams in the ESL.
The Champions League and UEFA Cup competitions would remain (as mentioned above – not open to ESL teams) and I’d be tempted to resurrect the Cup-Winners’ Cup as well. The CL would be shorn of its extraneous non-champions, who would naturally go back to the UEFA Cup. The all-important difference I’d make however – would be to use the UEFA & CW competitions as ‘qualifiers’ to the later stages of the CL.
Each of the Euro k/o competitions could run in much the same way as the current CL, although I’d ensure that the start of the new CL was delayed somewhat in relation to the others… so that the ‘qualifying’ UEFA & CW tournaments are able to supply a number of teams to the Group Rounds of the EC as I’ll explain in more detail below…
The CL should expand to take 64 teams in its Group Rounds in sixteen Groups of four. These would come from 40 entrants of actual League Champions, some directly streamed into the Groups and others playing-off home and away for the pleasure. Usual rules applying here, it will be the ‘junior’ Associations’ teams which contest the play-offs… and the losers are directly streamed into the UEFA Cup.
I’m thinking along similar lines.
The last 16 in Year X (say 2008-09) would form a European League in Year X+1 or Year X+2 (2009-10 or 2010-11 in this example).
Once the European League starts, the 6 will not play in their domestic league, but instead, play 30 league games in the European League, at weekends (rather than mid-week as it is now).
An additional year (X+2 instead of X+1) may be required for the domestic leagues to make arrangements for the departure of clubs to the European League. I’m not sure about that.
I’d even argue for a second tier to the European League – say European League Divisions A & B, comprising the rest of the last 32 from Year X, who would also leave their domestic leagues to play in the European league on weekends.
You may ask why the next 16 would want to play in a second tier in Europe, rather than in the top tier in their domestic league.
The answer lies in something along the lines of the European League Cup that you propose – I’d call it the European Cup for the sake of simplicity, and because in a way, it is the continuation of the European Cup/Champions League as has been played since 1955 and continuing to date.
The 32 teams in the European League Divisions A and B would be grouped in 8 groups of 4, based on their positions at the end of the previous season or at the half-way stage of the current season, as follows:
Group 1 – A1, A16, B8, B9
Group 2 – A2, A15, B7, B10
Group 3 – A3, A14, B6, B11
Group 4 – A4, A13, B5, B12
Group 5 – A5, A12, B4, B13
Group 6 – A6, A11, B3, B14
Group 7 – A7, A10, B2, B15
Group 8 – A8, A9, B1, B16
The league season would break at the halfway stage, for the group matches in the European Cup to be played. Clubs would play each other home and away, giving rise to a further 6 games. For Division B clubs, 4 of those matches will be against Division A clubs.
After the group games are completed, the European League resumes.
The top club or top 2 clubs from each group would go through to a last 8 or last 16, played in the same way as the European Cup/Champions League, all the way to a final.
Even if there is only one division in Europe, a European Cup could be held as above, except there would only be 4 groups of 4 instead of 8 groups of 4. I see this is what you propose.
Clubs in the European League would continue to play in one (and only one) domestic cup competition in their home country. For English clubs, this should of course be the FA Cup.
Top clubs from domestic leagues would continue to play in the UEFA Cup. The number of clubs from each country would depend, as now, on the UEFA co-efficient. At the end of each season, the two UEFA Cup finalists will replace the bottom two clubs in the European League Division B.
Between the European League and domestic league, there could be regional leagues, such as a British League or an Atlantic League. The consent of the domestic football association would be required to play in a regional league.
Top clubs from a regional league would take part in the UEFA Cup in the same way as top clubs from domestic leagues, and the UEFA co-efficient would apply to the regional leagues as well.
If, for example, a British League is formed, you could have British League Premier Division, and a British League First Division, with promotion and relegation between the two.
Promotion and relegation between the British League and each of the English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland leagues could be organised in a similar fashion as the European model, with the top 4 clubs from each league playing in a British Cup the following season, and the two finalists replacing the bottom two clubs in the British League Division One. The system that currently exists as between the Conference and the Isthmian, Southern and Northern Leagues works better when there are fewer lower tier leagues, but could also be considered.
Domestic leagues in England could be reduced to 16 to 20 clubs. The clubs within one division could at some stage in the season, be organised into 4 or 5 groups of 4, playing each other home and away. The top 8 would play in a knock out competition all the way to a final. This would constitute a divisional cup. In lower tiers, the winner of the divisional cup would be promoted. This would replace the play offs as they currently exist.
I’ve tried very much to build on existing structures, rather than to seek to replace them.
The Football League started in 1888 with 12 clubs. It was a leap forward from only having a handful of competitive matches in a season in the FA Cup (only one or two matches if a club was knocked out early) to having 22 guaranteed competitive matches in a season.
For professional clubs, a fixed number of competitive matches guaranteed a certain level of revenue, which enabled them to budget for players’ wages.
My proposal to the Football League in 1991 involved a top division of 16 clubs (playing 36 games a season), and 4 lower divisions of 20 clubs each (playing 44 games a season). The novel idea was in how to get the extra 6 games a season. The total number of clubs would increase from 92 to 96.
I’ve taken the ideas along a fair bit since then, to include a European league and regional leagues.