Nasty Uefa Reforms: The Scare Story That Won’t Go Away

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Didn’t we deal with this already? I mean, didn’t we?

Where is this supposed to be going?

No more than two weeks ago, UEFA and the ECA issued statements saying that they were working together to assure that there was a mutually beneficial, and realistic, series of reforms to the existing competitions, with the Club Association basically saying that it was the governing body in the driver’s seat.

That silenced the media.

It stopped the scare stories running wild.

Or so we thought.

Now a single source, from a single English club (one, I’m willing to bet, that sees itself as on the decline and wants to keep its reputation and name intact) who says “Yes, the proposals will go through UEFA” … but they will still amount to a lock-out of what are sometimes patronisingly referred to as “the smaller countries, and we’re off to the races again.

This is a never ending cycle of nonsense.

And it is nonsense; utter, unbelievable, nonsense.

Let’s see what today’s proposals allegedly amount to; first more qualifying matches for clubs.

Brilliant idea.

More tension filled nights early in the tournament.

And at the end of it, what?

Two “leagues” of eight teams.

It’s laughable, and let’s start with the reasons why.

Right now all Europe’s top clubs get automatic qualification for the Champions League. There’s a seeded cadre of them. How many in number? Currently, twenty two. They don’t have to worry about qualifying games or any of that old nonsense. They can prepare for the tournament far in advance and not have to go through the bothersome task of trying to get past other teams. Some say it’s elitism; it is, but it’s a system we’ve gotten used to, and that causes very little bitching.

Make a change like this and what do you get?

There’s no more guaranteed qualification.

In order to make this even vaguely palatable to the “lesser nations” automatic qualification would be gone.

So, you’d have a bun fight, and no matter how well you “seeded it” to make sure big clubs played smaller clubs, there’d be an overlap with some of the current seeds knocking out other ones. And every year, you’d get one or two of the “lesser nations” sneaking through.

Then you get to the “leagues” themselves.

Two groups of eight sides. It all sounds very exciting, doesn’t it?

Who wouldn’t want to be part of it?

Well, actually, nobody … and here’s why.

Because Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona and probably Paris St Germain would dominate in their groups, unless English football radically improved.

Depending on how many teams qualified from each group, you might end up with something that was akin to the way domestic football is going … a small handful of teams, permanently at the top, winning comfortably and the rest fighting for what they could get.

At first, anyway. That would change soon enough … I’ll get to that in a minute … but for the early years of the competition this is what it would look like.

At the top of each group you’d probably have one massive team, the same team every year they got there. Fighting, just below them, you’d have a petty squabble for qualification to the next round. At the bottom, you’d have teams going through the motions … and they would be because you’re no longer talking about six matches in the group stages … but fourteen.

All but a handful of them would end up the equivalent of “glamour friendlies.”

And that’s another thing; add to those fourteen group matches the qualifying rounds.

Add to that the final knockout stages.

What’ve you got then?

The top clubs playing as much as thirty matches in the competition as a whole.

I don’t mind that a lot of people have overlooked this; I mind that they’ve never played Football Manager and messed around with the editor. Because every single ambitious player who ever loaded that wonderful utility up and tried their hand at revamping European football in this very fashion – I once created a FIFA Champions League to run alongside the European one – knows what the actual consequence of it is; total chaos.

A fixture pile-up like you’ve never seen.

Clubs like Watford winning the EPL because the domestic form of clubs with continental qualification has absolutely tanked.

A league season of 38 games, added to 30 in Europe, with cup matches on top and then international fixtures?

You don’t have to be a genius to work this kind of stuff out; just look at a bloody calendar!

Look how crowded the schedule already is, for God’s sake, with clubs playing 50 games in a season, the equivalent of two a week considering the summer break.

Where are you going to fit in another eight? Or ten? Or twenty?

UEFA could have created six team groups already if that was what clubs actually wanted; it’s clearly not. They tried five team groups in the UEFA Cup at the start, but it was chaotic to run and it led to a huge revamp, from which we got the current structure.

So what would you get if all this came to pass, apart from international teams devoid of top players because clubs refused to let them go, top leagues where the winners were mid-table battlers who weren’t burdened by fixture congestion and all that entails, and the obvious complete disregarding of domestic cup football?

You’d get exactly the scenario the “big clubs” are allegedly trying to avoid.

England’s reps by year four or five? Aston Villa, Southampton, West Ham and Leicester all over again.

Spain, represented in the elite competition by Celta Vigo, Real Mallorca, Atletico Bilbao and Seville.

Germany by Eintracht Frankfurt, Cologne … you get the drift.

Because whatever else UEFA will spring for, European qualification will always depend on where clubs finish in domestic football.

That’s not going to change, not ever.

All of this, it’s pie in the sky. These plans, or plans like them, have been proposed before and before and before … and before … and before.

And every single time they get to the actual point where they have to be properly scrutinised questions come up which nobody can answer, because no-one’s thought past the point of how “cool” it would all sound.

Thunder is just noise, at the end of the day, and that’s all this is. A shadow on the wall. A scare story that comes around again and again and again, like FEMA camps in America or that one that’s always in the tabloids here about the deadly spiders … you know it, right?

They must think football fans are easily spooked.

Hey, we don’t scare easy.

We watch Ronny Deila’s Celtic every week.

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