Brendan Rodgers has tried to temper expectations that Celtic can reach the final of the Europa League. So says the media. I wish someone would tell me where these expectations originate because I honestly don’t know. Nobody I speak to harboured the slightest illusion that we would be playing in that match. Nobody expects it.
We have a manager here who does not truck in hype or indulge in any bull.
He tells it straight and he tells it true. He does not oversell either himself or the team. He keeps it real. I would rather have someone like him at the helm than a headline chaser who makes grandiose claims. We all know the kind of manager I mean.
Brendan is right about the changing nature of football. This is an era in which there are teams, even in the second tier tournament, who can outspend us by ten or twenty to one. Certain leagues are rolling in cash. Others are struggling, including our own.
We are pushing a boulder uphill, and that would have been true even if we’d been net spenders.
UEFA are to blame for all of this.
As the governing body, and with the cash to be made in the Champions League, they could have made that tournament – and the Europa League itself – a great leveller. They could have been used to redistribute some of football’s vast wealth to those leagues which are not represented at the money table.
But instead the governing body of the whole game in Europe took the lead in a corrupt stitch-up that enriched the big clubs even further; the top leagues got automatic places, three each. The rest of the clubs were made to fight for the scraps. The tournament itself was devalued.
Caught in the middle were clubs like ours, clubs with history and tradition and who should have weight.
Accidents of geography are all that hold us back, and that is just wrong.
The days when we could be taken seriously as a club have gone, and it’s not through any fault of our own.
The game will not recover anything like equilibrium unless that changes.
And there’s no sign that it will. Something has been lost, perhaps irretrievably so. UEFA will not stand up to the big clubs, represented through the ECA which itself has betrayed its founding principles and now threatens the whole game with talk of breakaways by those at the top. Through all of it, we keep on hearing about how Celtic has influence at these organisations but it looks like it’s in short supply. We’re certainly not using it well.
We should be forging alliances, reminding UEFA of its mandate to look after all of football in Europe and not just those at the top. It should start with calling the bluff of the so-called big leagues; none of them is going to support a breakaway European league because that would cost them their own top clubs and destroy their commercial viability.
UEFA talks a good game with its FFP committees and its chit-chat about the integrity of the sport. But no organisation has done more to piss all over the founding principles of the game. If we are looking to them for help in sorting out the SFA I think we’d be looking in the wrong place.
UEFA has its own issues, and it’s not dealing with them well.
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