UEFA currently operates just two major club competitions – the rather inaccurately named Champions League and the Europa League – with a marked difference in the way they are perceived.
Back in the day, the European Cup was the competition for national champions; the European Cup Winners Cup was the (correctly-named) competition for national cup winners; and the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup was the third competition for teams that did well and finished high, but didn’t win a physical trophy.
These days, the emphasis is massively inclined – both in terms of media perception and financial rewards – towards qualification to the inaccurately named Champions League with the Europa League belittled and qualification for still sneered at in some quarters, and this despite increased prize monies being available.
Add to that the myth, particularly here in the UK, that teams cannot cope with Thursday night EL games and the next domestic game being on the Sunday, and you have a competition that will continue to struggle to get close to the status that the current Champions League enjoys.
Even winning the worlds most prestigious national cup competition, the FA Cup, has been denigrated by clubs fielding second string teams because the prizes prize is ‘only’ qualification to the Europa League, managers feeling the extra effort in achieving top four and the Champions League to be better.
It is – financially – but for true footie fans, seeing your team captain lift a trophy and parade it around Wembley and then again at your next home game, far outweighs pure financial matters.
I want the euphoria, the joy, the hugging of the bloke/fan next to me, the sheer pleasure of celebrating a tangible success – a trophy.
Footie fans want trophies for their clubs, not just finance.
The fourth place trophy doesn’t exist and therefore shouldn’t be bandied around as a Holy Grail of football.
Looking on the UEFA website, it states there are currently 55 member countries/states from the big boys of Spain, Germany, England etc right the way down to the minnows of Gibraltar and Andorra.
So, why can’t UEFA revert back to two of the original – correctly named competitions – and a revised Europa League?
Surely UEFA could structure a true Champions League of just the 55 member countries annual league champions?
Surely UEFA could re-instate a European Cup Winners Cup for all the senior domestic cup competitions winners – FA and League Cup – and their European equivalents?
If the FAs of the other countries don’t have or operate two senior domestic cup competitions like we do here in England and Scotland, then that should not – if there are two different winning clubs – prevent both from entering the ECWC. In the same vein, if one club wins both, then only they, not the runners-up qualify.
And surely, UEFA could make the Europa League the competition for the teams that finish second, third and maybe even fourth – the numbers for this competition would need to be regulated, probably by the co-efficient calculations that currently determine how many non champion clubs go into the current Champions League.
The European Cup and Cup Winners Cup need to have their integrity ring-fenced, and by that I mean no runners-up gain entry, only league champions and cup competition winners.
Back in the day, the hierarchy of European trophies was always and understandably European Cup, ECWC and ICFC, but the differentiation in status was, in my opinion, nothing like as marked as the differentiation between the current Champions League and Europa League.
I am also of the opinion that once a club is eliminated from its UEFA competition, there should be no second bite of the cherry as currently exists with Champions League clubs then going into the Europa League – it’s a nonsense, plain and simple.
Once you’re eliminated, you’re eliminated and you return to domestic competition to try and qualify for the next season.
Somehow, I doubt that UEFA would ever consider anything along the lines I’ve suggested and I’ll state why…
I think that the inaccurately named Champions League is the competition that UEFA are really interested in hosting. I genuinely think the current Europa League – whilst receiving increased revenues and offering increase rewards – will always be considered very much a second tier competition.
I feel that unless the current UEFA competitions are revised, then ultimately, the current Champions League will end up as the mechanism whereby UEFA constitutes a European League aimed purely and solely at the current so-called ‘Big Four’ or elite clubs in the major countries.