UEFA have refused to rule out the possibility that major European clubs such as Manchester United and AC Milan could be guaranteed Champions League football in the future, regardless of their domestic league position.
It was recently suggested that the European Clubs Association—made up of the continent’s senior clubs—are hatching a money-spinning plan to reserve Champions League places every year from 2018 for the most high-profile clubs, per Martin Lipton in the Sun.
UEFA has refused to deny the plot, which would, in principle, guarantee the European elite—clubs such as United, Milan, Liverpool and Chelsea—a spot in the continent's premier tournament regardless of their league position, thus limiting the opportunity of smaller teams aiming for qualification, per the Sun's Dan King:
"UEFA constantly reviews the format of its competitions in close consultation with stakeholders, including the European Club Association," said a UEFA spokesperson.
"There are no concrete proposals on the table at this stage as we have just begun a new three-year cycle (2015-18) for club competitions. There is therefore no further comment to be made at this stage."
It is a worrying sign that UEFA has not moved to deny such an unfair and transparently greedy idea.
Per King, struggling major clubs are reportedly "trying to take advantage of the power vacuum at UEFA," with former president Michel Platini currently under an eight-year ban and general secretary Gianni Infantino running for the FIFA top job.
The lure of the Champions League is one of the principle motivators for teams in the domestic European leagues, and for the likes of current Premier League high-flyers Leicester, the potential rewards of breaking into the competition are huge.
But, per Lipton, the Champions League prospects of the continent's relative minnows could be hugely limited by the introduction of reserved spots.
The 2015-16 season sees the likes of United, Milan, Chelsea and Liverpool—all winners in the 21st century—facing the very real prospect of missing out on Champions League football next season.
It is no surprise that they are looking to guarantee their future in the tournament, and the Champions League undoubtedly benefits financially from having the top clubs compete.
However, it is ultimately fairly despicable that the ECA could be looking to reserve spots for such clubs, at the expense of smaller outfits that can hugely benefit financially from a Champions League spot.
As noted by BBC commentator Steve Wilson, the idea goes against the competitive nature of the sport:
UEFA's refusal to comment on the issue is far from an admittance that such a plan is being hatched, but it will be a concern for the likes of Leicester—and current Serie A leaders Napoli—that it has not been ruled out at the first opportunity.