Neil Doncaster vows to protect Scots clubs in Champions League

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster is awaiting more detail on the Champions League reforms. Picture: Ian Rutherford

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster is awaiting more detail on the Champions League reforms. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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Scottish Professional Football League chief executive has vowed to continue fighting changes to the Champions League which could make it harder for Scottish clubs to qualify.

Uefa, European football’s governing body, has announced that the top four leagues in its co-efficient rankings – currently Spain, Germany, England and Italy – will all be guaranteed four spots in the group stages from season 2018-19.

The move has been driven in a bid to fight off the threat of a breakaway European super league by top clubs.

Uefa has insisted though that the Champions route – which was the path Celtic this week took to reach the money-spinning group stages for this season’s tournament – will be protected.

However, the full details of the new-look competition have yet to be unveiled and there is no guarantee the current five places reserved for winners of the continent’s smaller leagues will be preserved.

Doncaster says he is now awaiting the full breakdown of the new format but insists he will not stand for further alterations which could threaten Scotland’s place at Europe’s top table.

He said: “There is still a lot to be worked through before we can comment fully on these changes, with Uefa stating that full details of the access list for both competitions will be finalised by the end of the year.

“What we can say now is that, after lobbying hard for the retention of the Champions route for Champions League qualification, the SPFL is therefore pleased that the Champions route has been protected as part of these changes.

“This alone is good news for each season’s Ladbrokes Premiership champion club and indeed for Scottish football as a whole.

“However, we will monitor this issue and these changes very closely and pledge to continue to fight to protect the best interests of Scottish football in the wider European and global context.”

Other changes implemented by Uefa, to take effect in 2018 when the new three-year commercial cycle begins, will see clubs judged on their own records, deleting the country share for the individual club coefficient unless that coefficient is lower than 20 per cent of the association’s coefficient.

That could help Celtic’s bid to qualify for the group stages but may make it harder for the rest of Scotland’s clubs to make it past the qualifiers.

Historical success in the competition will also be acknowledged in coefficient calculation with points awarded for previous European titles while financial distribution to clubs will be increased significantly for both the Champions League and Europa League.

The Champions League will continue to have a 32-team group stage and a 16-club knockout phase and the Europa League remains at 48 teams, although in a new development the winners will automatically qualify for the Champions League group stage rather than receive the ticket to the play-off round they are currently awarded.

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