20 October 2006

Change the Champions League?

English Clubs may lose 4th Champions League spot

Michel Platini, one of the greatest players to ever step on a pitch, and one of the candidates vying to replace Lennart Johansson as UEFA President, wants England, Spain, and Italy to lose a qualifying spot in the Champions League. On first glance, I don’t like the idea, primarily because it might make more trouble for Liverpool, but honestly, there’s little in Platini’s argument that I disagree with.

• On face value, four clubs from one country in the preeminent tournament in Europe seems a lot.

• There would be more TV money for the teams that did qualify. Can’t argue with more money.

• Having the 4th placed team in the Champions League dilutes the quality of the tournament. It is called the “Champions League,” and I’ve heard the argument that the old European Cup was more special because the teams that were in it deserved to be there because of the title they won, although I can’t make any claims to have experienced that.

However, Platini’s claim that it would help national champions progress to the final stages more easily is dubious. The last five winners of the CL were Barcelona, Liverpool, Porto, AC Milan, and Real Madrid. Liverpool and Porto were surprises, but Barca and Real won their league the year they won the CL, and while AC Milan was 3rd in Serie A the year they won, they can hardly be called a surprise. It is a knockout tournament. Surprises happen.

I find it hard to believe that this change will take place. One, the G-14 will fight it tooth and nail. The G-14 never takes any potential loss of revenue for their clubs lying down, and I’m sure this case will be no different. Two, fans seem happy with the current format, and Champions League revenue and ratings are up. I find it hard to believe, no matter the ineptness of soccer’s governing bodies at times, that UEFA would try and fix something that isn’t really broken.

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