I've decided to start my blogging career by taking a look at the state of the European Game, I hope you all enjoy it!
In the world of football the phrase "The Beautiful Game" is commonly used, but if you scratch the surface of the European game is it really that beautiful?
I'll start my look at the state of European football at the very top & a competition that winds me up... The Champions League. It's a competition I just can't grasp the concept of at all. CHAMPIONS league, as in, for Champions of Europes various leagues. This appears to be missed by UEFA. Financially, having each European champion entering probably isn't that rewarding for UEFA, but it'd make for a much fairer competition & an improvement in the domestic leagues throughout Europe. This competition shouldn't be something for me to be concerned about, as a Birmingham fan, but I'm also a fan of a club from a "Lesser" European country with regards to football (Slavia Prague), so Czech football & the welfare of Czech clubs is obviously of great interest to me. This season saw Viktoria Plzen enter the Champions League group stage having defeated the champions of Armenia, Norway & Denmark. Later on in the competition England, Germany, Spain, Italy & more see 2nd or 3rd placed teams from their leagues enter. Why? It's a question I often ask myself. It appears to me that UEFA are penalising teams based on Geography. Winning a Championship in Denmark or Norway isn't as important as coming 2nd or 3rd in England/Spain seemingly. How is that fair in a tournament designed for European Champions?
Another problem caused by the Champions League is that it devalues certain domestic leagues. In England, I'm always annoyed by Sky Sports constant hyping up of the "Race for Fourth" throughout the season. Has it really come to this? Celebrating not winning the league or being a runner up? It's just bizarre. It's worse when you look & think that teams across Europe are fighting to win leagues as it's there only way of making it to this financially rewarding tournament. Surely having only the League winners in the tournament would increase competition domestically, making every league much more entertaining? I'd prefer to see that than teams "Fighting for 4th".
Now it's time for me to look into the Europa League...
I'll pick out a particular tie that I've looked into from the recent qualifying draw "FC Zimbru Chişinău (MDA) v Bangor City FC (WAL)". I decided to research this tie to see the financial implications, it's astounding. After scouring various websites to find the prize money for the Europa League 1st quslifying round, the average amount was between £500-£1000. I then decided to price up flights from Wales to Moldova & found that the cheapest I could find was £400 per person. These teams are going to be taking 16 players, plus staff! How financially rewarding is this? Bangor City would be better off by not qualifying for this, which is wrong. Surely UEFA need to re-assess the financial rewards to make it so that teams are actually rewarded for making it there, rather than making teams lose money from the very beginning. Isn't that why teams are so happy to enter these competitions!?
One way to improve the fairness of the financial distributions from these competitions is really quite easy. Sky, ITV & ESPN all pay HUGE sums of money for the right to show Europa League & Champions League games. Why don't UEFA test their commitment to these competitions by putting it in their contracts that they HAVE to show games from the 1st Qualifying rounds to the final? It would give the teams that don't have as good a run as others some money to show for it. Maybe that's too simple for UEFA.
Another aspect of European Football (Worldwide even) is the away goals rule. You should have to beat a team out right to progress in a tournament. Why should a team be classed as winners after drawing 0-0 & 1-1 with their opposition? If they draw, they draw, it's simple. Also, away goals coming in to play is an advantage for the team playing away 2nd. If both legs end 0-0 after 90 mins, why should 1 team get an extra 30 mins to get a victory that includes away goals? If extra time ends 1-1, as far as I'm concerned there is still no winner. If they persist with away goals, scrap extra time from ties affected by it & use the good old fashioned & fair penalty shoot out.
International Football Next!
Someone once said to me "Lesser Nations need their own pre qualifying group stage to determine which are good enough to play in the actual qualifiers" Why? They are European Nations, how can they not have a right to play in the qualifiers for a European Championships or World Cups? These countries need to keep playing better nations in order to improve. I've played football for years & I can testify that you improve by playing against better players. It's like telling a league club in England that because they play in League 1 or 2, they have to qualify for the League Cup.
I hope you've all enjoyed my 1st ever article, as mentioned in the Excerpt, all feedback is welcome.
Thank you for reading!