Whatever benchmarks the Arsenal manager is set for the 2020/21 season, qualifying for European football will be the easiest to achieve. According to a report in the Independent, the European Clubs Association is set to be given the rubber-stamp from UEFA for a third club competition.
There’s no mention of a ‘super league’ in the report, which suggests it is to be a junior or peer competition for the Europa League. Long-time readers are familiar with my motto, ‘Frankly, there’s nothing new in modern football’. Well, frankly there is nothing new in modern football; we used to have three European club competitions.
Then at the turn of the century, a UEFA marketing suit decided that the Cup Winners Cup wasn’t making enough money and that combining it with the UEFA Cup was a really good way of making even more money. It seems they now think that adding another competition is a great way of making money as well. Do try to keep up.
Did I mention the words ‘super league’ not being there? European Clubs Association executive Andrea Agnelli rather gave the game away when he said,
“Pending approval of the Uefa executive committee, the ‘green light’ has been given to introduce a third competition.
“This would bring the overall number of clubs in European competition to 96, as of the 2021/22 season.”
96, you say? That’s 48 in the Europa League with 32 in the Champions League; 48 + 32 = 80, leaving sixteen teams. What format could a sixteen-team competition take which would generate bucketloads of cash for UEFA and the clubs but not overly damage the Champions League?
You’re way ahead of me. Sixteen teams playing thirty-midweek fixtures equals a licence to print your own money. It’s twice as big as the Champions League; farewell to two top-flight teams and a cup competition.
Suits You Sir?
It’s an opportunity to announce a complete overhaul of current competitions. Turning them into knockout competitions won’t happen, with UEFA only interested in swelling their coffers rather than what is best for football. The two aren’t mutually inclusive ideas. Their obsession with leagues models points to a Super League rather than adding a new competition for the third-placed teams in Europa League groups.
So where do Arsenal fit in? Assuming the top teams from each of the major leagues – England, Spain, Germany, Italy, France – take five places, who else would be involved? The quarter-finalists from the previous season’s Champions League? That’s 13; add the Europa League winners, plus, say Portugal and one other. I’m just floating the idea.
Or the top two from those five leagues and then six other champions? A lop-sided contrived format whichever way you look at it. And something UEFA specialises in.
The question is where Arsenal fit into all this. A decade ago, we’d have a strong case for the Super League. Now, we’re hoping it pushes us into the Champions League which will have marginally more pull than the Europa League. Although, it could be that we still qualify for that which would ram home how low we’ve sunk. Or you could look at it as telling you what our current level is, which is a more ‘positive’ way of addressing these issues.
Whatever you choose, it’s still not top of the pops, champions or anything shiny; I don’t think challenging for the top spot is within our grasp for several seasons. The eighteen-year cycle is in operation and signals the title is due 2021-22, which is just in time for another positive spin on the situation.
This optimism thingy could take a hold, you know. If only those pesky ECA/UEFA suits hadn’t meddled, I’da got away with it.
Grey and Uninspiring
We’ll find out soon enough whether the dystopian future I’ve laid out is true. The Indescribalyboring unsurprisingly doesn’t speculate but sometimes you have to unleash your inner tabloid.
This is football for sponsors, for the television companies. It isn’t for the fans and isn’t for football at any other level beyond the elite. Which is who the ECA represent. Somewhere in the past, there were only 92 clubs in their group and the inner cabal is resurfacing.
Expecting them to do anything other than voting for their own benefit is like expecting turkeys to vote for Christmas.