The ESL has collapsed but the CL still needs reform

One of the reasons why the European Super League reared its very ugly head once more was because the Champions League and Europa League are tournaments in decline.

Champions League viewing figures and crowds were dwindling before the Covid19 outbreak. The competition was in urgent need of reform.

It had become a predictable tournament. With the same group of teams constantly qualifying, the same making it through to the knock out stages and the same making the semi’s and finals.

Back in the 90s and 00s, European football was magic.

Part of that magic was that you would rarely play the same teams.

Arsenal’s first meeting with Bayern Munich in a competitive came was the 2000/01 Champions League. They would only be drawn together once more in the next 12 seasons – in 2005.

They would then be drawn against each other 4 times in the next 5 seasons from 2013 – 2017.

Before facing each other in the 2006 Champions League Final Arsenal and Barcelona had been drawn together once in Europe – 1999 when Arsenal played at Wembley.

From 2010 – 2016 Arsenal would be drawn together 3 times in 7 seasons.

And it is not just the big ties – Arsenal have been drawn against Olympiakos 6 times in 11 years.

The problem with European football is two fold.

Firstly over the last decade there has been less of a turnover of different teams making the tournament.

With England, Spain and Germany all getting 4 slots, Italy and France 3, we continually get the same teams qualifying.

Such is the weaknesses in depth in Spain, France, Italy and Germany; the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, PSG and Juventus will always be in the draw.

And then the draw itself is designed to keep teams apart, which as a result pushes other teams together.

UEFA created such a complex criteria that you will always end up with the same teams facing each other if the same teams continually qualify.

We have their coefficient seeding which is designed to keep the best teams apart to ensure their qualification. Then we can not have two teams from the same country in the same group.

On top of that you can not have more than two teams from the same country play on the same night (or two teams from the same country if only 2 qualify).

And the Last 16 knock out, similar rules apply.

Group winners are seeded against group runners up and teams from the same association can not face each other. It is only in the last 8 do we get a true random draw.

A European tie is no longer the magical experience it was.

The competition needs reform. UEFA knows it and the clubs know it. And that is what led to the split.

The clubs want a smaller competition, with guaranteed spots and more games against the “big clubs”. Whilst UEFA wanted to expand the competition. Make it bigger.

Both of their plans were awful, and this should not be forgotten about throughout all of this.

UEFA is not the “better of two evils”. They are equally as evil as the European Super League. And their plan is probably actually worse.

So how should UEFA reform European football? The most basic answer is probably the best:

Scrap the Europa League: Have one single tournament. The European Cup. All teams who meet the criteria of entry play in it.

Make it a knockout tournament: Make the competition a 128 team tournament. Have a pre-qualifying round or two if needed to get to that number like in the FA Cup. And then make it a two-legged knock out tournament all the way to the final. Teams would play 13 games to win the tournament. The same as the current format.

Make the draw random:  To increase unpredictability and to make the biggest games a rarer event, make the draw random. No seeding. So Manchester United face Barcelona in the 1st Round. One will be knocked out. So what? That means one was not good enough.

And allow same associations to face each other from Round One: Alongside the unseeded draw, allow clubs from the same association to face each other. None of this keeping them apart to maximise TV coverage.

If UEFA stripped back the tournament, simplified it and expanded it, it would resolve the problems.

As it stands UEFA’s aim is to ensure the “biggest” teams get the most games and progress. It is all about TV money. Not the excitement of the tournament.

Fans enjoyment has been secondary to them ensuring those big clubs get their pay out. And that is why their competitions are dying.



1 thought on “The ESL has collapsed but the CL still needs reform

  1. bathgooner

    Excellent points. Absolutely right. Your suggested single large knock out competition is exactly what should happen but it won’t because the vested interests are too powerful and the jeopardy of an early exit for the likes of Real Madrid is too great.

    Football has become a South Sea Bubble economically and both proposals are about sustaining that with more income from more games. The Super League’ major moral flaw is that it is about sustaining the bubble preferentially for some of the most fiscally incontinent and therefore economically exposed ‘big clubs’. Perez moans that Real can’t afford Haaland without the SL. So what? Other clubs are entitled to have good players and if you can’t afford a Rolls Royce you have to content yourself with a Fiat.

    The powers that be will not make the changes necessary to make these competitions open nor avert the massive economic crash that is the inevitable consequence of their greed. Sadly the game as we knew it is probably dead.



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