Champions League changes: What it means for Celtic and Rangers

Scottish football will make a welcome return to Europe's top table next season with the possibility of both Celtic and Rangers taking part in the Champions League group stages.

And that looks likely to remain the case for the foreseeable future with UEFA set to scrap plans to offer spaces to elite clubs based on past glories amid a new set of proposals to revamp the tournament from 2024 onwards.

Celtic will make their first appearance in the group stages in five years next season thanks to Scotland’s improved coefficient ranking that will allow this season’s Premiership champions direct access to the competition proper.

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Rangers, whose last Champions League appearance came in 2010-11, will join their Glasgow rivals in the group stages if they win next week’s Europa League final against Eintracht Frankfurt, or alternatively negotiate their way through two qualifying rounds.

The group-stage format hasn’t altered since either Celtic or Rangers were last involved – the 32 teams are split into eight groups of four, with the top two teams progressing to the last 16 – but that all looks set to change from 2024.

If the proposals go through, the group stage will look vastly different. The number of clubs will be bumped up from 32 to 36, and a single league format will be used to determine the overall rankings from 1st to 36th.

The top eight teams will then advance to the last 16, with teams finishing between ninth and 24th entering a two-legged play-off round to determine which eight sides complete the last 16. Teams who finish 25th or below will be eliminated and will not drop down to the Europa League.

It is also understood the number of matches in the new-look league phase per team will rise from the current six to eight. All eight matches will be played against different teams, with four at home and four away all contributing to the overall league ranking.

Celtic will compete in the Champions League group stages next season, and Rangers could join them, with changes to the competition proposed from 2024 onwards.

There will also be changes to the qualification process after an agreement was reached in Vienna between Uefa and the European Club Association on access to the new-look competition.

The proposal to award two places in the new 36-team league phase based on individual clubs' European performances over five years has been scrapped, with critics arguing it created a safety net for failing big clubs and a Super League by default.

Instead two places will be awarded to clubs from the countries who performed best in Europe in the previous term.

If applied to next season that would mean England gaining an extra spot, along with Holland.

Under the approved country coefficient system England would have secured an extra place in four of the last five seasons, the exception being performance in the 2019-20 season, when the places would have gone to Germany and Spain.

The other two spots would be allocated firstly to the club ranked third in the championship of the association seeded fifth position in Uefa’s rankings, and secondly by extending from four to five the number of clubs qualifying via the so-called ‘Champions Path’ – creating another possible direct entry route for Celtic and Rangers.

New proposals were presented to the ECA in Madrid on Monday and the indications then were that more time would be needed to reach a decision, possibly forcing the decision back until later this month at least.

However, a key meeting of UEFA's club competitions committee was delayed on Tuesday morning to allow more time for the final detail to be worked out.

UEFA originally approved changes to the format in April last year but the announcement was totally overshadowed by the formation of the Super League hours earlier.

At that point, the format included a leap from the current six matches to 10, and the awarding of two places to clubs based on historic performance over five seasons provided they had done enough to qualify for one of the other two UEFA club competitions.

Europe's domestic leagues opposed the increase in matches and the coefficient proposal, and still objected even when the proposal was tweaked to avoid clubs leapfrogging rivals who performed better domestically into Europe's premier club competition.

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