The UEFA Champions League is undoubtedly the most high profile football club completion in the world, and it’s final in late May is one of the most watched sporting events in the world.
But ever since teams who finish second, third or fourth in their nation’s league have been given places the brand ‘Champions’ league to me – and probably to many of you as well – makes no sense whatsoever.
Try explaining to an alien why second place in the English league is playing fourth place from the German league in a competition for champions.
The competition worked so well when it was only for the champions, and as the old saying goes If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
Now, we all like to think that if we were in charge of the government or a sports governing body that we’d do a better job, so I put myself in the position of a newly elected UEFA president about to give his first press conference regarding my plans to rejig the tournaments.
Firstly, the Champions League would return to being a competition exclusively for the 53 national champions* of the UEFA members and the reigning European Champions themselves. If the European Champions have won their league that season as well, then the runner-up of said league would qualify. Matches will be played on Tuesday nights.
The Europa League will become a competition for the non-champions who at the moment qualify for the current Champions League e: g second-fourth in the Premier League, La Liga and Bundesliga. The reigning champions will not be given an automatic qualifying place. Matches will be played on Wednesday nights.
Finally, I’d bring back the Cup Winners’ Cup on Thursday nights for the winners of the FA Cup, Capital One Cup, Copa del Rey, Coppa Italia etc. If a cup winner has qualified for one of the above competitions, then the losing finalists will take their place unless they too have qualified for one of the above tournaments. In that case, the two losing semi-finalists will play-off on a neutral ground in their home country in a one-off match to determine who takes the place.
If three of the last four clubs in cup have qualified for Europe then no play-off will be needed. If however all four semi-finalists will get European football the next season, the team who lost to the eventual winner in the quarter-finals will take the European place unless they go on to win the Champions League, in which case the three remaining losing quarter-finalists will play in a quick-fire group at the same neutral ground.
The Cup Winners’ Cup final will be played on a Wednesday night, the Europa League final will be on a Thursday night, and the Champions League final will remain on a Saturday night.
*I’d help the Liechtenstein FA create it’s own league. The tiny principality only has a cup competition because all their clubs play in Switzerland. This means no club from Liechtenstein can play in the Champions League at the moment.
Please leave a comment if you agree/disagree with any of these proposals, and feel free to share your own too.