UEFA introduces long-overdue changes to European football

Michel Platini
Michel Platini

Tottenham missed out on Champions League qualification in 2011, despite finishing fourth in the Premier League, due to sixth-placed Chelsea winning the tournament. However, this will be a thing of the past from the 2014-15 season, as Uefa is set to eradicate the rule and allow an extra team from the winning country entry, should the Champions League winners not finish in a qualification place domestically.

This is one of a number of changes to the game that Uefa are investigating for upcoming seasons. Another is automatic qualification to the Champions League for the Europa League winners – a ploy to try to make the second-tier European competition more appealing. Would this have been the necessary motivation for Tottenham to beat Basel this season in the Europa League, or for Liverpool to get past Zenit St Petersburg?

Michel Platini

The ruling body is also said to be exploring the idea of offering a fifth Champions League berth to the biggest leagues – England, Germany and Spain. The number of qualifying sides for the Europa League may also be increased across the member nations.

The only instance that a team could finish in the qualifying positions for the Champions League and still miss out, is if both European competitions were won by clubs from the same country that are not in top four domestically. In that unlikely instance, the top three teams from the league would be joined by the two European champions, and the fourth-placed team would play in the Europa League.

A Uefa Congress is taking place today in London ahead of tomorrow’s Champions League final, with any changes agreed upon to take effect from 2014-15.

Uefa Respect campaign

Uefa is also keen to toughen up its ‘Respect’ campaign, and increase the minimum bans for offences such as referee abuse and racism. It has been confirmed that the minimum ban for a proven racist incident for players or affiliated members of a football club will now be 10 matches. This is more severe than in English football, where the FA have recently announced that the minimum ban will be five games.

There have been a number of incidents of racism from the terraces this season also, and Uefa will look to rule with an iron fist going forward in regards to supporters. The first offence will result in a partial closure of the offending stand, while a repeated offence could lead to a full stadium closure.

When dealing with match officials, anyone found guilty of abuse will now be subject to a minimum ban of three games – it was previously two. For physical abuse of a match official, a 15-match ban will replaced the mandatory 10-match version from this season.

This new legislation will be enforced by June 1, meaning that the sanctions will be in place ahead of the 2013-14  European season.

Finally, tighter controls in anti-doping measures will result in the incorporation of blood tests in the future. Also, any limitations previously in place in regards to match-fixing will be removed to allow for thorough and complete investigation of suspect cases.

All these measures certainly seem like positive moves from the governing body, and can only be a good thing in trying to combat the negative influences that can tarnish the game currently.

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