TALK about out of the fire and into the frying pan…
In a bid to prevent the European Super League, Uefa have come up with Champions League plans that amount to little more than a closed shop.
Their proposals would offer a free pass to clubs who fail to qualify through merit. It must never happen.
Uefa’s idea is that of the additional clubs the competition would be open to, England would probably have two extra spots, making six qualifying clubs in all.
But here’s the problem… two of them would qualify based on their previous history in Europe, rather than merit.
Based on the proposals, if Everton and Leicester came fifth and sixth in the Premier League, say, but Arsenal and Spurs were seventh and eighth, the North London teams who would go into the Champions League.
And that would be at the cost of Everton and Leicester based on Uefa’s ‘coefficient’ — which weights previous experience in the Champions League over merit in any season.
There is no justifiable reason why clubs who do not finish highest in the league should play in Europe above those that finish below them.
The damage would be huge. Uefa’s latest plot is a spatchcock concoction based on the original Big Picture Project and their own twitchy reaction to plans by Fifa who fancy a chunk of Europe’s grandest prize.
But it is more sinister than that. A major target is the Premier League itself. There is worldwide envy at our broadcast power and Uefa’s plan to increase the current 125 matches to no fewer than 225 strikes at the very heart of it.
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Each club would have ten games in a new league-style structure before the knockout stage. That’s four extra games into a season already bulging at the seams.
Favouritism simply has no place in competitive football. Uefa are suggesting a straightforward bribe designed, I suspect, to encourage those that a coefficient suits to go along with their proposals.
Meanwhile, let’s consider the wreckage of our domestic game.
The League Cup would probably be a victim, losing the EFL as much as £86million in much-needed revenue from broadcast revenue. Let alone the loss of gate revenue enjoyed by clubs who play in the tournament (when supporters are allowed in).
The FA Cup, already a grey shadow of its former glory, would no doubt suffer further indignities, increasingly employed as a useful competition for squad players or fitness tests.
Then there would be a pincer movement on the Premier League, caught between the needs of the golden six and squeezing games into odd corners of the week. As a result, I’m sure PL broadcast revenues would be hit.
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Perhaps I am too cynical but I believe the current drive for change comes from America where the biggest sports are closed shops without promotion or relegation.
This makes for more lucrative accounts with annual guarantees of weighty profits to owners. So, it makes sense to Americans that the Champions League becomes a big-club monopoly. The figures are mouth-watering.
One example — the total number of Super Bowl viewers is roughly half of those for the Champions League final. This pot of gold is waiting to be fully exploited, hence why queues have formed.
Collectively, the Premier League people were smart enough to create what is now a £6billion business. It would be a pity if the principles of togetherness that made it so strong are abandoned.
The red light for danger is flashing. The Premier League needs to fight the Uefa proposals on two fronts. Without a merit-based competition, any proposals lack integrity and must be prevented.
And we must stop Uefa chiefs taking away our Premier League calendar for their own competition…