So onto my favourite topic of the world’s governing bodies. Michel Platini has today announced a plan to ensure European clubs live within their means, and a method of punishing them if they don’t. All well and good, we think. Without scratching beneath the surface it seems like a good idea, as all clubs ultimately want to play in European competition.

The new idea is to monitor club’s finances over a three year period, issue warnings to clubs who are ultimately failing to keep their finances on an even keel, and if necessary, ban clubs from competing in the either the Champions League or the Europa League. There are also exceptions to this ‘break even’ clause, so wealthy owners can spend their millions on new training grounds, youth academies and stadiums. So generally, it’s a good idea then? Err, no.

Firstly, this new proposal does absolutely nothing about existing debt. So Manchester United and Liverpool are free to just live with over a billion pounds worth of debt around their collective necks. So instantly, in my eyes UEFA have failed before this even begins. But let us move on.

The Premier League are against the ‘break even’ idea because it limits ‘competitiveness’. Now there is more chance than ever of the same five or six clubs finishing in the same positions year after year because no upstart can go out, spend £200m and put themselves in the frame. However, that evens itself out because there is also no chance of another club ‘doing a Portsmouth’. Let’s face it here, the Premier League don’t care a jot about individual clubs going out of business, all they are interested in is their ‘product’, the self proclaimed ‘best league in the world’. As a result, despite the Premier League having a valid point, it is “spoken with a forked tongue”.

No, it WILL still be possible for a club to spend a lot more money than they have, and hence still compete with the bigger clubs. How? Quite simply by charging the supporters more money than they do already, both through TV deals and at the gate. Then of course there’s club merchandise, and match day food, so either way, John Terry won’t miss out on his Champions League football or his £180,000 a week wages. Don’t worry about poor little Mr Terry.

Quite simply the only losers here are the supporters, and the culture of ridiculous wages for average footballers continues. Instead, UEFA should have dealt with the biggest issue at hand. So as much as I agree with Platini’s principle, I’d have taken it further with the below:

  • Introduce a wage cap, provisionally set at £100,000 a week starting in the next two years
  • Force clubs to use the money saved on wages to reduce ticket prices, thus attracting a more genuine supporter base, and less of the ‘prawn sandwich brigade’. I’d go further by forcing a sliding scale of prices across all domestic leagues.
  • Introduce a new law ensuring that at least three of the match day squad came through the ranks of the club, thus giving the youngsters more of a chance
  • Force clubs to have at least three players from their home nation in their match day squad, thus ending the era of an entire squad of foreigners, and home grown players having to move down the leagues to progress
  • Bar all clubs from European competition with a debt greater than the overall value of the club until the debt has been reduced.

If you’re reading Mr Platini, I’m coming for your job.

As always, I’d appreciate your comments.

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…