European competitions badly need reforming…but UEFA won’t listen
February 19, 2010
Apologies, I feel a rant coming on, but before I start, can anybody tell me if they watched any UEFA Cup…I mean Europa League matches last night? No? I thought not. And I don’t think British fans are alone in shunning the competition, which is rapidly becoming irrelevant.
For too long now, the UEFA Cup has been like the retarded brother who lives in the loft. (OK, perhaps a touch too far, but you get my drift.) Nobody talks about it, nobody does anything about the problem. And the plans UEFA released to ‘revamp’ this year’s tournament seem to have made it even more unpopular.
Of course, the primary reason why the Europa League is unpopular is very simple: it is not the Champions League. Indeed, UEFA have allowed that many sides into the Champions League, there aren’t really any glamour ties left in the secondary competition. UEFA themselves acknowledged this when they started to allow sides who finished third in their Champions League groups into the UEFA Cup (something else I don’t agree with, but I can understand their view-point.)
This truly is to the detriment of UEFA and to us, the viewing public, as well as undermining the premier competition. I’ve said before of my feelings about allowing 4 teams from one country into the Champions League, especially when that involves league champions of smaller nations missing out. But now this is causing considerable problems to the integrity of this competition.
I was reading a message board lately where a fan said the Champions League is better as it is, with 4 English sides rather than the likes of (and these are his words, not mine) “FC Drakula”. I’m sorry, I entirely disagree. The competition is called the Champions League after all, so what right do a fourth placed team have to take the place of a side who have won their own domestic championship?
Now a proposal to go back to ‘just’ league champions is probably never going to happen, as UEFA shot themselves in the foot when they started to allow second-placed clubs into the competition in 1997. But why should one country be allowed four representatives when the champions of other nations do not qualify? The obvious answer is money, and the belief that Arsenal and the like are more profitable than the likes of the Hungarian champions, for example. True enough, but is this primarily a football tournament or a business enterprise?
Platini has said himself that he would like to see more league champions qualifying for the Champions League. There’s a simple proposal: take some of the additional spots off the bigger leagues. After all, is coming FOURTH really worth a place in the CHAMPIONS League? OK, these sides only get into the qualifying rounds, but they are always seeded to ensure the bigger sides qualify. Without these big clubs, the smaller sides have a realistic chance of earning what they should achieve anyway due to their championship trophy.
This would in turn push some of the bigger clubs back into the UEFA Cup (this year’s competition would have included Arsenal, Fiorentina, Athletico Madrid, Stuttgart, Lyon and Zenit St Petersburg, to name just a few) which would breathe a new lease of life into the competition.
I’d then ensure the UEFA Cup (I’m tired of calling it the Europa League already) goes back to a knockout competition, with unseeded draws. Club managers are almost disappointed to qualify for the UEFA Cup because of the sheer number of games involved. However, a straight knockout would make it more appealing to managers, who would have less matches to play, and to supporters, who would enjoy the excitement of a knockout competition.
And voila, just like that, the UEFA Cup is restored. Now to find Platini’s email address…