The New Champions League Format – for better or worse, for richer or poorer?

Good morning, friends.

During the current World Cup break I thought that it might be interesting to start some debate on the future plans for the Champions League. 

As things stand, season 2023-24* will be the last one with the current ‘8 groups of 4’. We all hope that Celtic will have automatic entry to that and perhaps, finally be given a favourable draw with a chance of securing a second place finish to proceed to the knock out stages. But the question is – will our chances improve any under the new planned set up?

Starting from season 2024-25* UEFA’s plan is to expand the Champions League proper from 32 teams to 36 teams. The current group structure will be done away with and instead there’ll just be one big 36-team league table. So, just what it says on the tin, a Champions League. Now, it’s been a bit of a struggle to find out the official UEFA fine detail on the new format. But from what I’ve been able to gather over the last week or sofrom various reliable(ish) sites, here’s what ole Jobo THINKS the new format will be. And as it makes it easier to explain, can we assume when reading this that Celtic will be included, having won our 3rd title in a row and possibly gone through a qualifying round or two, still being led by Big Ange.

So, here we are in August 2023, on the morning of the High Noon draw with Jobo’s explanation of what now lies ahead.
1. Although it’s one big league of 36 teams, clearly Celtic can’t play EVERY other team, home and away – a 70 game tournament is a bit of an ask even for Callum McGregor!
2. Instead, today’s draw will split the 36 teams into 4 groups (let’s call them A, B, C and D), each with 9 teams in it.
3. The draw will be seeded with the expectation that all 4 groups will have a similar range of teams based on the usual club co-efficient system. The draw will also, as far as possible, limit the number of teams from any one country to no more than 2 per group.
4. Each Group of 9 will have a couple of the Big Boys, some others that would have previously been regarded as Pot 2/3 under the old system, and a couple of the lower ranked teams.
5. Celtic will be in one of these 9-team sub groups and we will then play all of the other 8 teams. Not home and away, but just once – so we will have 4 home ties and 4 away ties in total. The same format will apply across all 4 Groups. 
6. So, all 36 teams that are in the Champions League will play 8 games, 4 home and 4 away against 8 different opponents. And just like any ‘normal’ domestic league, the big 36-team league table will reflect how teams have done after those 8 games – teams that win 5 or 6 games up near the top, teams losing all games (despite their world class breakfast buffets) down the bottom etc.
7. After everyone has played 8 games, this part of the competition comes to an end and we move on to the knock-out phase. And here’s how qualification works –
8. Firstly, the bad news: the teams that finish 25th to 36thare out of Europe completely. A bit similar to teams that finish bottom of their groups under the current set up. 
9. At the other extreme, the Top 8 teams qualify automatically for the Round of 16. The expectation is that Celtic are very unlikely to be in this top group. There’s no guarantee that this will be the best 2 from each of the 4 Groups of 9. It’ll just be the 8 teams with the highest points total from the 8 games that they have played.
10. That leaves the middle batch of tams, those that finish in places 9th to 24th in the Big League. These 16 teams will play a home and away “knock out round” with the 8 winners progressing into the last 16. I doubt that this will be an open draw. It’s almost certain that there will be a degree of seeding, probably that teams placed 9th to 16th will get a tie against one of those placed 17thto 24th .
11. The 8 losers from that knock out round are also then out of Europe. There’s no parachuting down to the Europa or anything. 
12. And I’m pretty sure that the format and set up of both the Europa League and the Europa Conference League will mirror the one for the Champions League.

The pros and cons of the new tournament are open for debate and might only become clear as each season passes. Which of these are positives and which are negatives?
> We will be guaranteed 8 games on the top tournament rather than the current 6
> We will be playing 8 different sides rather than just the 3 at present
> We will visit 4 European away grounds but with no corresponding home leg
> We will entertain 4 different European teams at home so no doubt the ‘package’ will be more expensive than it is just now
> There are 4 potential away trips to consider

For a few years now, many folk have argued that the existing set up had become stale with usually the same old outcomes and same old teams reaching the latter stages. Whether the new set up actually changes that remains to be seen. For me, unless UEFA are really bold and get back to completely open, free for all draws – even if that’s just for the knock out stages – then the so called bigger clubs are likely to continue their stranglehold on the trophy.

Finally, if you think these changes seem radical have you heard what’s planned for the 2026 World Cup? Instead of a 32-team tournament conveniently built around 8 groups of 4, the finals are being expanded to a whopping 48 countries. And the current thinking (not absolutely set in stone yet) is, to me, quite ridiculous –16 groups of 3 with the top 2 progressing from each! To me, the obvious flaw comes with the final game in each group of 3 – easy potential for a complete stitch up if there’s a particular result that would see both of the 2 teams qualifying. But I may write my next guest article on that in 3½ years time!

Above article by JOBO


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A thing of beauty
December 10, 2022 7:53 am

Thanks for that Jobo. I have become very lax at keeping informed of what is happening in European football, usually because it doesn’t mean much to us. Out by Christmas if not before has been the norm for so long. I think the new format is very cumbersome with far too many games. Players will be knackered by the time the final comes around. Factor in all the international games, even blooming friendlies and clubs are going to need a squad of 40 players. Which in turn favours the big clubs and ensures they progress to the final. I think what uefa are also not factoring in is the lack of interest in games in the early stages of these competitions. If I use myself as an example I used to watch all the games I could. They were on sky so one package covered you. Now if you want to watch all the football I did 10 years ago you need 4 different subscriptions so it became a case of just not bothering. This combined with so many meaningless games where the minnows get trounced by the big boys just turned people off. I personally only make an effort to watch from the semi finals onwards and of course Celtic till they are papped out. I suppose what I’m trying to say in a long winded way is that uefa have got too greedy and expanding the tournament won’t work because the big teams are too far away from the rest so it’s just more meaningless games. Who is going to pay money for that?

December 10, 2022 8:05 am


Informative article.
The format change is in two years time – commencing in the 24/25 season.

December 10, 2022 8:11 am

Link to TWISTY Naps competition.

Watch out for abandoned meetings!

December 10, 2022 8:12 am
Jobo Baldie
December 10, 2022 8:36 am

Good morning, friends.
CFC – correct, I forgot wat season we were currently in! So next season, 23-24, is the last with the current format
ATOB – the new format gives all 36 qualifiers 8 guaranteed games, so 2 more than just now. I think that’s a good thing for Celtic. Even the teams that go all the way to the final its “only” 2 more games. I dont think that’s far too many games?
Must run…

December 10, 2022 8:44 am

Morning all

I had seen there were new proposals for both the Champions’ League and the World Cup but not known how they’d play out so thanks.

I have to admit that going back a few years now I have only really watched Celtic (and this season Rangers’) matches in the Champions League and I do not see this new format changing my viewing habits. Of all the formats for the European Cup there have been , the best was the Champions League in its very earliest set up- two rounds of qualifying, league format for the 8 qualifiers and then a final. That lasted two seasons ( the 91-92 European Cup used that format but the tournament was not called the Champions’ League until 92/93) and in 93/94 there was a one leg semi-final added before it began to become more cumbersome (and give free passage to the league format to the winners of certain leagues) in 94/95. Other than dropping the second set of group stages which were in place for two or three seasons in the early part of this century every change since 1993 has been for the worse and made the tournament less special, less exciting and more boring whilst being increasingly skewed in favour of the richest clubs. This new format won’t make me watch more , or help Celtic and selling 4 game packages might be more difficult for some competing clubs at the bottom end of the market – the parachute to the next tournament down can be seen as providing some reward for failure but has also often been an incentive for the poorer clubs to keep going even though a top 2 spot might have been out of reach fairly early on . And of course it will be more expensive for supporters to buy 4 game packages. Not one second will have been spent discussing what the implications are for supporters who go to games. They, we, will just be expected to cough up. ‘Twas ever thus.

As for the World Cup 48 teams just means more dud teams qualifying – there are already far too many European teams making the finals which are just there to make up the numbers and I’d guess that the 16 added places will mean more duds from Africa and Asia too. Not for me.


December 10, 2022 9:02 am

Cheltenham cancelled

December 10, 2022 9:03 am

As is Doncaster !

December 10, 2022 9:16 am

Formats schmormats, we need to improve the structure of development at the Club ( Ange is doing this), improve the quality and knowledge of the coaches ( he is doing this) and improve the technical ability, agility, footballing and game intelligence of the squad.
In a purely football sense I’d be interested in what we have learned from our recent CL games. What an individual player or groups ( or coaches) )have seen that makes them think, wait a minute , let’s do this ! Has there been any meetings or discussions on what worked and what didn’t and why or do we just say that was that ?
Plan, prepare, implement, assess, review.
You can bet Germany, Belgium and Brazil are doing it for ‘26.

December 10, 2022 9:22 am

What are you all concerned about? Celtic competing in the Champions League last 16 or the latter stages of the UEFA Cup, wishful thinking. Although not getting a doin’ by the usual suspects home and away would be a pleasant change. Yes, next time we grace the CL post-22/23 season we’ll have 8 teams to watch from behind our sofas. Also, players who leave will be replaced by better quality, again wishful thinking. If JJ and GG do leave let’s see how much of the fees received are spent replacing them with better-quality players now that Lieswell is now officially back in town, not that he ever left. Just how much does a player that is better quality than a world cup semi-finalist cost these days?

As per usual I sincerely hope that my cynicism is misplaced and that lots of humble pie has to be eaten.

Anybody but the feckin Saxons

December 10, 2022 9:38 am


Thank you for the article,mate. Very gratefully received!

Very informative article on the new format,and actually sets my mind at rest on one or two matters. Even if,like ATHINGOFBEAUTY and JIMBO57-and no doubt many others,I usually have little interest in the early stages. Particularly the grouping into four sets of nine,and the overall standings to be the top 24.

I had visions of us somehow drawing the best eight teams in the tournament otherwise,which would be right in line with our usual luck in the teams we draw in group stages over the years! I still think it is a bit of a dog’s dinner,and will probably be expanded to 48 teams incrementally over the coming years. It really is crazy stuff,and with the addition of the extra international tournament-what is it,the Nations Cup or summat?-just adds to the burden and burn-out possibilities of the top players.

Having said that,at the height of our success in the late 60s,Billy McNeil was playing over 60 games a season,and the 70s saw Kenny Dalglish play even more often than that for both Liverpool and Celtic. So maybe the high number of games that CalMac,and the likes of Messi,Ronaldo etc,are nothing new.

And think how many games a season Juan Ramos would have had to play if he wasn’t getting sent off so often!

Craig 76
December 10, 2022 9:39 am

December 10, 2022 9:40 am


I know there is a cost of living crisis,but if you think that comment is just angling for some free humble pie,I think you will be disappointed!

December 10, 2022 9:41 am

thanks for the detailed explanation.
I think it’s worth a go with potential benefits to Celtic outweighing the negatives.

I was really confused with the dates as we have already been knocked out of 22/23 CL.
I see CFC and Jobo confirmed that the dates are a year out.
Would it be possible to do a wee edit to clear up potential confusion.

St tams
December 10, 2022 9:58 am

Thanks Jobo, for that very informative and detailed description of the future CL.
I’m with you , in that it should be a free for all draw and none of this can’t play other teams from the same country rubbish.

For us to improve cwe also need better players, obviously

16 roads
December 10, 2022 10:03 am

Margaret McGill

I’ve changed my opinion about Juranovic
He played well today
In fact Lawwells first piece of business will be flogging him to the highest bidder

December 10, 2022 12:41 am


See this is the thing:

The Celtic support is delighted that one of our players has excelled at the World Cup, looking forward to seeing JJ continue to perform well domestically, when he returns to the football club.

Peter Lawwell on the other hand will be sitting, thinking how much money he can sell JJ for.

Reappointing PL is as negative a move as it is nonsensical.


December 10, 2022 10:21 am


Edits done as per request.

December 10, 2022 10:22 am


Before the WC started there was talk of him looking to further his career elsewhere- whether it was paper/ agent talk or not.

His stock is at the highest it will ever be, so any sensible trading club will look to maximise its return on a player who is happy to move and potentially treble his salary. It works for both parties.

For an example of how things can change for the worse look across the city and the Morelos/ Kent/ Kamara value downturn. Lost opportunities to get top dollar.

December 10, 2022 10:27 am


I’d keep him till after the huns game at least. Hopefully he will go out on a high.

December 10, 2022 10:37 am


Agree. Continue his dominance over Kent. Get us the points and if he is for the off he goes with our best wishes.

It may not be the bogeyman PL instigating a transfer.

Ange and MN could well be in agreement that player trading, at an optimum level benefits squad rotation.

It also keeps our profile high as a club which nurtures overlooked talent, and provides a platform for ambitious players.

Jobo Baldie
December 10, 2022 10:46 am

Thanks for the corrections in the leader, Bobby. Must do better…..

December 10, 2022 10:49 am


Practice makes perfect. Except it doesn’t,as the frequent errors in my articles prove!

bada Bing 1
December 10, 2022 11:44 am

3-1 down
Hart, Ralston, Starfelt, Jenz, Taylor, Hatate, O’Riley, McGregor, Abada, Kyogo, Jota

bada Bing 1
December 10, 2022 11:50 am

4-2 Kyogo

Craig 76
December 10, 2022 12:01 pm

Still time JTT53 to put a Nap on if you are looking in 😀

December 10, 2022 12:15 pm

Hereford also cancelled now.

Craig 76
December 10, 2022 12:18 pm

As the race card is down to 2 meetings, is it worth scratching this week’s?

December 10, 2022 12:25 pm

Not convinced any of the potential bids for Kent.Kamara or Morelos were anything other than wishful thinking by mssm and hun fans .?
Morelos got a pay rise above his ability due to his agent using the mssm’s ludicrous claims that he was a world beater wanted by worlds top teams yet years later he’s still wobbling around with not one concrete bid received.
Kent and Kamara’s best chance of commanding decent fee’s went when Villa sacked the hapless Slippy.
Juranovic’s standard had slipped this season as his focus and concentration was lacking but he has shown in World cup that he has the ability to play with the best.
In a way the World cup has arrived at good time for him to rekindle his desire and focus unlike Edouard who struggled last season at Palace after taking a year off at Celtic before joining .
Downing tools is not a great career option as bad habits and timing are not easy to readjust.
I said weeks ago JJ had been poor and was happy to see Ralston play.
While JJ is an excellent footballer his head lies elsewhere so taking the money for him would be the correct decision if it contributes to Anges squad building.

December 10, 2022 12:45 pm


There’s a winner in every race, and fifteen to choose from. That’s more than on most Mondays and Tuesdays.

big packy
December 10, 2022 12:58 pm

TWISTY, just logged on cheers for the info, can i pick another one??

December 10, 2022 12:59 pm


Certainly have to take MSM fanboy valuations into account, but at their “peak” Morelos and Kent would have been worth more than they will be now, heading towards contract termination in 6 months.

If a significant offer above £10m towards the mid teens is made for JJ then I think that’s likely to be accepted.
At 27 he will have no great onward sale value after working through a 3/4 year contract.
His last chance at a big payday.
Can’t blame him.

Sort out the Huns on Jan 2 and goodbye with best wishes.
The test thereafter is how much Ange is looking for/happy to have to reinvest in the squad.

December 10, 2022 1:03 pm


Non-runners can always be replaced,as long as the original choice was posted before the “off” for the first race. As yours was.

December 10, 2022 1:05 pm

Newcastle now cancelled.

We will extend choice for selections to tomorrow’s racing as well as todays.

Anyone with a selection already made for today, who wishes to cancel it to allow them a greater range to choose from, just flag it up PRIOR to the off of your original selection.

big packy
December 10, 2022 1:07 pm


big packy
December 10, 2022 1:08 pm

anyone know what race meetings are still on

December 10, 2022 1:23 pm


Only Wolverhampton plus tomorrow meetings.

December 10, 2022 1:24 pm

4-3 loss full time. Strong team, Jenz hooked at HT. CalMac and Kobayashi ( triallist) got time.

big packy
December 10, 2022 1:24 pm

BOBBY thanks👍

December 10, 2022 1:33 pm


Thanks for the updates. Sounds like a decent run out. And good news too that CalMac is back.

December 10, 2022 1:35 pm

Only Cork,Newcastle and southwell still on for tomorrow,I can see Newcastle being postponed also as it was today.

December 10, 2022 1:37 pm

7-30 am inspection at Newcastle tomorrow but yes, very unlikely!

big packy
December 10, 2022 1:44 pm

5 feet of snow here in cheshire this morning, could not get the car off the drive, luckily ive got a big snow shovel ,in fact as i speak wee joan is still shovelling away, well im not doing it with my bad back🤩🤩 another true story

December 10, 2022 1:47 pm

Great Article Jobo Baldie,

Really looking forward to the new set up,

If we can keep our performing, experienced players, like Josip – we could be on the top half of the UCL

Also Scotland at the World Cup sounds good

As Spain found out this year, stitching up can be overrated

Hail Hail

Margaret McGill
December 10, 2022 2:05 pm

I love it when Tims vicariously use the word “we”
We should sell him
We should do this
We should do that
We are such proficient decision makers for this PLC club
You gotta laugh.
We should have sold our souls…oh wait.

December 10, 2022 2:10 pm


Like it or not,when discussing Celtic,fans always use that term. I’m sure you did that too.

December 10, 2022 2:17 pm


We are Celtic supporters

We are on the one road

We will follow you

We slip n side as we fall in love

Etc, etc.

Aye, bring a supporter is a vicarious experience.

Margaret McGill
December 10, 2022 2:19 pm

Fine article Jobo.
You forgot to mention the motivation for the new format.
More money.
Money from having more spots from the big 5 leagues not pish from the likes of Bulgaria and Scotland.

big packy
December 10, 2022 2:20 pm

RUTH MADOC rip loved her in hi-de-hi

December 10, 2022 2:29 pm


Thanks for that leader.


Respectfully, I must disagree with you. For my money, the European Champions Cup, was at it’s finest, when the competition was in a straight knockout format. No seeding, or any of that nonsense. I well remember when Liverpool, the holders, and Nottingham Forrest, the current English champions, were drawn together in the first round of the 1977-78 European Cup. That was high drama. Of course, some of the finals back in the day, were rank rotten. As for the first season of the Champions League? 1992-93 I believe. As the competition progressed, I remember becoming increasingly terrified that the Huns would reach the final…or worse. Thankfully Marseille put paid to that particular nightmare. All these years later, Huns of a certain age, are still bemoaning that their team ‘nearly won’ the trophy in 1993. My usual reply to these chancers, is that Celtic actually did win the trophy. That usually puts their gas at a peep. If they persist with their pish, I gently remind them that the club that ‘nearly won’ the big cup, no longer exists. This thought always gives me a good laugh. Not so them.


Another belter of a “Waterford Whispers’ post. Just the tonic on a freezing afternoon.

Big Packy

Ruth was a brilliantly funny actress.

Hail Hail.

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