Premier League’s Big Six may not be able to resist radical Champions League changes

One of the toughest things in life, outside of staying awake during Glenn Hoddle’s punditry, is getting a working visa for Angola.

It’s why, with it not exactly being a tourist hot-spot, if you finally get there, you don’t hear too many people speaking anything other than Portuguese or their tribal tongue.

So after a week in the remoter parts of the country I held out little hope of watching English football in the capital Luanda, last Saturday. But I could not have been more wrong.

In the airport lounge, my hotel reception, the first bar I walked into and the restaurant I had my dinner, the early kick-off at Anfield, the 3pm at Old Trafford and the late one at Carrow Road were being shown live. And the locals lapped it up.

Statistics tell us the Premier League has become a juggernaut of a global brand. On match-days in remote places like Angola you truly see it.

But something a Spanish businessman said to me in the bar of the Luanda departure lounge in Sunday, as we watched the end of the Bournemouth v Everton game and the start of Watford v Arsenal, made me wonder when the golden pendulum might swing away: “The rest of Europe will only put up with the English taking all the money for so long,” said the Atletico Madrid fan.

Premier League clubs may find it hard to resist radical Champions League reforms
(Image: REUTERS)

And when you realise that last season, due to the English stranglehold on global TV rights, Huddersfield, who finished bottom of the Premier League took home £20 million more than the champions of Italy, it is surely unsustainable. The law of greed will see to that. In fact it already is.

Threats of a breakaway super league spearheaded by Juventus CEO Andrea Agnelli, mean next year UEFA will propose a radical change to the Champions League format from 2024 which could have a dramatic effect on the English game.

They want to replace eight groups of four with four groups of eight so that instead of each club playing six games between September and December, they’d play 14. The inevitable consequence is that domestic leagues will have to shrink. To further dilute the English power there’s talk of moving the Champions League to the lucrative weekend TV slots forcing more Premier League games into midweek.

Juventus CEO Andrea Agnelli is at the centre of reforms to the top European competition
(Image: AFP/Getty Images)

Naturally Premier League clubs will fight it, but will the ones that matter, the Big Six, be able to resist? Especially as the new format guarantees the richest clubs with the biggest global support automatic places in the competition regardless of where they finished in the league.

Would Liverpool and Manchester United, who unlike Bayern Munich and Real Madrid aren’t certain of making the top four every season, find such a platinum-plated invitation hard to resist? Especially fearing the consequences of being left behind in foreign markets if they did?

Guaranteeing the biggest clubs in Europe a seat at the top table at the expense of smaller clubs like Leicester who won their domestic title, may be the opposite of the sporting ideal, but greed long ago won that contest. A Champions League closed-shop would lock in the teams the world wants to see and blow every other competition out of the water.

The current Premier League era might well prove to be a golden age
(Image: AFP/Getty Images)

What makes this move even more likely is the changing nature of broadcasting with power moving towards streaming channels like Amazon and Netflix and customers watching on lap-tops and phones. That’s the battlefield the European giants are focussing on to defeat the English.

Meaning, in six years time, football fans in places like Angola may still be spending their weekends watching games from Anfield and Old Trafford, but with Real Madrid and Juventus the visitors, not Newcastle and Leicester.

Enjoy the Premier League golden age. The pendulum is swinging.

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