Yesterday Uefa announced a series of revisions to the Champions League from the start of season 2018-19.
The headline initiative, which was trailed in the media for some weeks, is that the top four qualifying nations are guaranteed four entrants in the group stage. At the moment the top three nations are guaranteed three entrants each, with a fourth team entering the tournament at the play-off round. The fourth placed nation is guaranteed two in the groups, with one more team in the play-off round.
In effect, all this means is that Italy gets one more team in the tournament, while the likes of Tottenham don’t need to go through the anxiety of a play of qualifying, even if the outcome is pretty much inevitable.
How teams earn coefficient points, and how they earn money are both changing, with Celtic standing to gain more than any other team in Europe. At the moment part of each teams’ coefficient is made up of an average of their nations’ entrants over the previous five years.
This penalises Celtic more than any other team in Europe. No other country has one team in the Champions League group stage, while all other teams failed to qualify for all group stages over the previous five years. From 2018 coefficients will no longer be dependent on the performance of other teams from your national association.
There’s also a Lisbon Lions Dividend. Teams who have won the European Cup will earn four monetary coefficient points. If they have won the Champions League within the previous five years, the bonus will be 12 points, and if they were European champions earlier in the Champions League era, the bonus will be 8 points.
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Lisbon, it is astonishing that the achievement of those men is still bringing benefits to Celtic in ways no one could have dreamt of back then. I’ve said it before, but it’s impossible to overestimate what they did for Celtic. Without them, we would have been as relevant to Scottish football as Hibs.