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TNT and Univision await Champions League TV ratings bonanza: World Soccer Talk Podcast

World Soccer Talk is a weekly podcast about watching soccer on TV, online and apps.

In the NEW episode, number 115, Christopher Harris and co-host Kartik Krishnaiyer cover a range of topics including:

• NBC delivers 2nd most-watched game in Premier League history,
• How a new soccer streaming service is giving MLS a bad look,
• Reaction to US Women’s lawsuit against USSF,
• And we have a bunch of letters from you, the listeners, in our mailbag section.

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  1. JP

    March 18, 2019 at 12:15 pm

    Have you seen this? Scary proposition if any of this happens. Full text included since paywall….

    European soccer’s top clubs are due to hold a secret meeting with UEFA on Tuesday to discuss potentially radical changes to the format of the Champions League, the most prestigious tournament in the game, according to several people familiar with the matter.

    After years of speculation, these will be the first formal talks between the bodies with the explicit intention of reshaping European soccer. The talks are just beginning, and any changes are far from certain and unlikely to take effect before 2024.

    But the changes that will be discussed this week in Nyon, Switzerland, could be dramatic in scope. On the table is a nascent proposal that could replace the qualifying structure of the tournament with a more closed system of promotion and relegation that would favor Europe’s biggest and richest clubs and make it harder for smaller teams to qualify.

    Another proposal would move Champions League games from their midweek slots into the weekend—a change that would subvert the primacy of each country’s national league, including the English Premier League.

    The clubs will be represented at the talks by the board of the European Club Association, a trade body led by Andrea Agnelli, the Fiat scion and chairman of Juventus, representing 232 European teams. The board also includes executives from European giants such as Manchester United, FC Barcelona, and Bayern Munich. The group has been pushing for years to revamp European competitions to protect the larger teams and guarantee their participation.

    A UEFA spokesman confirmed that the meeting was taking place, calling it “a brainstorming session.” He pointed out that several more of these would take place with other stakeholders before any changes to the competitions were considered.

    The talks come amid larger fears of a breakaway by some of the richest clubs in the sport, who have routinely threatened to split off from the existing structures and start a closed “Super League.”

    Last fall, a cache of private emails and confidential presentations published by a platform that calls itself Football Leaks appeared to show that seven elite European clubs—Real Madrid and Barcelona of Spain, Bayern Munich of Germany, Juventus and AC Milan of Italy, and Manchester United and Arsenal of England—explored the possibility of forming their own competition to chase television ratings and astronomical revenue as recently as 2016.

    For now, UEFA seems to have the clubs onside. UEFA and the ECA struck a peace last month in Rome, when the two sides agreed in a Memorandum of Understanding to abide by the current competition formats until 2024.

    “While the two of us lead the respective organizations, there will be no Super League. That is a fact,” UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin told Agnelli in Rome. “If you had carried out your alleged plan, your clubs would have lost their status as great clubs in the hearts of the people. The only thing great about you that would stay would be your past.”

    Instead, they agreed to thrash out the future of European soccer together over the next five years. But even that isn’t quick enough for some inside the ECA, according to people familiar with the clubs’ thinking. Several would prefer to see a revamped Champions League as early as 2021.

    The most vocal backers are teams outside the English Premier League, whose immense wealth means that even the last place team earns more in prize money and from television rights than the champions of France. The way they view it, the Champions League offers a way to close the gap. This past season, for instance, simply qualifying for the tournament was worth 15.25 million euros ($17.8 million) in prize money. Winning the whole thing can earn a club upwards of 80 million euros ($90.8 million).

    For any Champions League regular, those funds make up a critical part of the club’s annual revenue. But no one’s participation is guaranteed. Under the current format, teams qualify based on their domestic league position the previous season, which can mean even a super-club gets left in the cold. Just ask the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and AC Milan, who have all missed the cut in recent seasons.

    Any reorganization is also likely to mean more guaranteed Champions League games for everyone—which translates to more television payments. A team that goes out in the group stage these days plays only six times. But Agnelli has said in the past that he would like to see a minimum of 14 matches for everyone, on weekends, while reducing domestic league commitments. One new proposal would see just four teams relegated from the top tier of 32 Champions League teams every season.

    For now, the prospect of bringing everyone on board seems unrealistic. The Premier League itself has shown no desire to give up its hold over English clubs.

    “We’re the largest league in Europe,” former Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said last year. “Nobody’s going to give up weekends. And nobody else has the authority to tell us we’ve got to. So it’s very straightforward.”

    La Liga president Javier Tebas said that the reform process could be “a catastrophe,” in an interview with Reuters. “UEFA and the ECA are negotiating behind closed doors so that the others don’t know about the reforms which put national leagues in danger.”

    • Monte

      March 18, 2019 at 4:53 pm

      I do not like the ideal of a “super league”.
      I do like the ideal of Champions League matches on the weekends. I watched several of the CAF Champions League matches this past weekend on beIN Sports Connect. I also think that if CONCACAF Champions League matches were on the weekend it would be a better competition with more support.
      Expanding the number of teams my not be a bad ideal, it seems that CAF, South American, and Asian Champions League have a lot more teams in their competition.

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