The Scottish media is running its latest gleeful story about why Celtic may yet be deprived of an automatic place in the Champions League Groups. After weeks of hoping that Villarreal went all the way in this year’s competition they are now reduced to something worse.
Which is rooting for the Ukrainian clubs to get a free pass and automatic qualification instead. So much for standing by the Scottish team right? The same papers which are urging us to back Ibrox tonight have spent weeks trying to conjure up scenarios for next season, none of which were even remotely likely, and neither is this one.
UEFA does not run a charity and I’m afraid even the exceptional circumstances of war will not make them one and nor should it. Football is a meritocracy and even in the present form that still stands true and clubs do not get automatic byes into the premier competition because their nations are experiencing some turbulence. It is preposterous.
Ukrainian clubs have made the request. They are fully entitled to do so. There is virtually no prospect of it being granted. If their clubs can play Champions League Group games they can play qualifying matches and that will be the line.
Besides, UEFA may not have to grant the request anyway. At this moment, Russian clubs are banned and they had an automatic place assigned to them already. If they drop out then you know who is behind Scotland in the rankings? Yes, it is Ukraine, so the easy and obvious solution here is to now formally kick the Russian teams out and that solves everyone’s problems.
I would not like to think that Celtic – or indeed the SFA – would simply roll over for any other scenario. I mean, what’s next? Scotland waiving their World Cup qualifier and giving them a free pass there as well? This is professional sports for God’s sake, and UEFA has already probably over-reached already and if the Russian clubs want to contest their ban then I think they’d have a good chance of winning in front of CAS.
No clubs will be getting a free bye into the Champions League Groups; it would create a minefield of problems for UEFA and whichever club suffered would only be the start of them. We all want to see Ukraine emerge from this crisis but some things are sacrosanct and if we’re really going to grant exceptional dispensations to every nation suffering in some form of conflict the World Cup is going to have a lot of clubs from Africa and the Middle East in it.
Honestly, this is desperate stuff from the media. Absolutely desperate.