Uefa has guaranteed more places for clubs from Europe’s top football leagues in the Champions League, in response to growing pressure to reform the continent’s premier club tournament and boost its appeal to broadcasters.

From the 2018/19 season, the top four leagues in Europe – currently England, Italy, Spain and Germany – will be guaranteed four places each in the Champions League group stages. Currently the top three leagues receive three guaranteed spots plus a chance for an additional team to qualify through playoffs. This effectively means there will be fewer places available for teams from the rest of Europe.

However, Uefa described the changes as “an evolution not a revolution,” and stressed that clubs from all associations will still be able to qualify for the competition.

In an attempt to head off expected criticism over the changes, Uefa released a Q&A alongside the announcement to address questions such whether “the new format will only see bigger clubs from bigger countries getting richer and richer”.

It said “all clubs will receive more money for sporting success and less for just being in a large television market,” and increased payments to clubs who are knocked out in the qualifying phase.

Theodore Theodoridis, Uefa interim general secretary, said:

The evolution of UEFA’s club competitions is the result of a wide-ranging consultative process involving all stakeholders and taking into account a wide range of expertise and perspectives.

The amendments made will continue to ensure qualification based on sporting merit, and the right of all associations and their clubs to compete in Europe’s elite club competitions.

We are happy that European football remains united behind the concepts of solidarity, fair competition, fair distribution and good governance.

Europe’s governing body for the sport has been under pressure to reform the tournament to increase the amount of money it generates from television rights.

A recent report by consultants Oliver & Ohlbaum encouraged Uefa to reduce the number of teams in the tournament to make it more appealing to broadcasters. The study said Uefa risks a breakaway by the continent’s biggest clubs unless it implements “immediate” and “radical” reforms.

In July the Financial Times reported that Dalian Wanda Group, the property and entertainment conglomerate run by China’s richest man, Wang Jianlin, was backing plans to launch a rival competition which would guarantee more places for Europe’s heavyweight teams.

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