Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Have Seedings Killed The Champions League?

The Champions League is frequently claimed to be the 'premier club competition in world football' and some even rank the tournament ahead of the FIFA World Cup. But has the seedings and co-efficients which are bent towards the 'big-five' killed the famous competition?

The Group Stages have brought hardly any excitement and tension due to the comfortable passages for the top clubs. Again, for probably the second or third consecutive year, I have cringed at the group Arsenal have been drawn in. Typical for a side bummed up by Sky and the English media but whenever they face a tough or challenging tie they will never deliver. Why should clubs like Arsenal be given the 'group-stage protection' while other clubs in Pot 2,3 and 4 need to genuinely roll their sleeves up to qualify?

Since the formation of the Europa League, I'll stick my neck out and say I've found this competition more refreshing and entertaining. I sense the purpose of the Europa League is really to stall the claims for a European Super League with numerous 'big fish in small ponds' being demoted to this competition due to the difficulty of reaching the lucrative pot of the Champions League. For Rangers and Celtic, the big bucks of the Champions League might be a step too far when both sides will need numerous qualifiers next season and they could join former big-boys such as Galatasaray, AEK Athens and PSV in the UEFA Europa League.

The strengthening of the Europa League and possible weakening of the Champions League leads me on to ask whether co-efficients have caused this?

To be honest, I've hardly a clue how the co-efficient system actually works but the demise of Scottish clubs in European competition has made me partly understand and appreciate every draw and every win we get in Europe. The freshness and sparkle of the Champions League has diminished due to the predictability of the latter stages in the competition. You could sit and probably name the 16 clubs that will qualify from the group stages; it has become boring and totally ridiculous.

Based on the allocation of places in 2012-2013, you can probably bet your cash that the four from England, four from Spain, four from Germany and 2 from France and Italy plus the maverick club outside the 'big-five' will likely make up the Last 16 of the competition. In 2009-2010, only three of the clubs in the Last 16 were outside the 'big-five' and the year before it was only three aswell, but bearing in mind FC Porto were previous champions and qualified in these two respective years.

Out of this years potential mavericks, there aren't many who really stand out as being teams that will qualify convincingly from their groups. Benfica, Shakhtar Donestk, Ajax and Panathinaikos could sneak into the Last 16 but are at an overwhelming disadvantage with the TV money being fed through to the 'big-five'.

The only way, for me, to see the Champions League flourish like it used to is to scrap the qualifying pots and totally revamp the competition. For goodness sake, it's the "champions" league not the "finish 4th place" league. Each UEFA member should have one automatic place in the tournament which would add up to 52 or 53 club sides and then have another 10 or 11 second-place qualifiers like Real Madrid, AC Milan, Celtic and Manchester United from this season. It would mean 64 clubs but a more fresh and unpredictable competition with the small chance that you could have a few early exits for the 'big-boys' if they come up against each other.

Until UEFA, FIFA and the respective governing bodies in Europe see that there are more than just five proper domestic leagues and that fans of clubs in Scotland, Holland, Turkey, Greece and Portugal are more fanatical and deserve better than the crap they get just now as their leagues capitulate infront of their eyes. These countries can't compete with their wealthy neighbours and none will produce a proper challenge to the European competitions unless things change.

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