The Lead

So much (practically all) football news is speculation, and those making the news are often as clueless as those paid to churn it out. So what’s the deal then with this?

Michel Platini has said that expanding the Champions League to 64 teams and scrapping the Europa League is an option amid a wide-ranging debate over the future of its club competitions.

Asked about the possibility of scrapping the second tier competition and doubling the size of the Champions League, the Uefa president said the proposal was under discussion.

“There is an ongoing debate to determine what form the European competitions will have between 2015 and 2018. We’re discussing it, we will make a decision in 2014. Nothing is decided yet,” he told French daily Ouest-France.

Platini went on to say that UEFA is also likely planning to at the very least offer Europa League-winners a spot in the Champions League. To my mind that’s really the only viable solution on offer. For one, you’re not really “scrapping” the Europa League under the above plan—you’re effectively lumping it onto the Champions League. A 64-team tournament would dilute what is currently the best football product on the market (and, judging from what the CL games have gone for in rights fees at least here in Canada, one that is wildly undervalued).

Gibson and others speculate this move is a potential sop to the European Club Association, whose board has threatened to form a breakaway competition for its 207 member clubs, in theory allowing the clubs to earn more money from independent TV rights deals and sponsorship agreements. But the ECA is still largely under the sway of a board represented by the old guard of the G14, and it’s not clear they’d be tickled pink by the idea of one, big, fat knockout competition to add another bajillion fixtures to an already busy schedule, with potentially less viewer interest, ratings, and less money to go around.

In the end, all you can do is make the Europa League slightly better, and a CL spot will help. But the competition by its very nature is second tier. The ultimate ideal would be to either scrap or shrink the Europa League, keep the Champions League, and improve financial equity within Europe’s domestic leagues (which Financial Fair Play may or may not yield) so that, in theory, any club on its day has the opportunity to reach the top.

But the genie’s out of the bottle. The Europa League is here to stay.

Canada

Canadian Frank Yallop is MLS Coach of the Year.

England

“I’d certainly not sign that kind of player for that kind of money.” Alex Ferguson on Andy Carroll’s 35 million pound signing.

Aston Villa manager explains why he left Darren Bent out of the line-up.

Everton coach admits his future with the club depends on the team’s ability to keep star players.

Despite the draw, QPR manager Redknapp remains cautious and says his team still has a long way ahead.

Walcott doesn’t appear on Arsenal’s 2012 Calendar.

Arsene Wenger indifferent to fans booing.

Italy

Mourinho says he’s still a huge Inter fan.

De Rossi still linked to Man City move.

Do Inter need Sneijder?

La Liga

Jonathan Wilson argues Cristiano Ronaldo is two contrasting realities in one.

David Villa back in line-up for Barcelona.

Kaka could leave Madrid in January.

Germany

Schalke insist Huntelaar not an option for Arsenal.

Gerd Mueller’s record remains intact as Messi rested for a game.

Hoffenheim faces another hurdle as its goalkeeper Tim Wiese is injured.

Bit and Bobs

A 64-team Champions League and the elimination of Europa League? Platini says it’s a possibility.

Here’s a beautiful goal by Dortmund’s Kuba.

Beckham makes an appearance in Snoop Dogg’s animated Christmas carol.

Vote for your favourite 100 new footballers.

Adriano receives a UEFA CL one-game suspension.

Comments (22)

  1. wait wait WAITT!! This stuff is happening way to fast. Can someone please explain to me what happened to the footy blog and more importantly Sharm and Jack?

    No disrespect to you Whittall we love you dearly, but what happened to my footy show?

  2. The Champions League is watered down as it is. The group stage, 95% of the time, is a walk-through for most major clubs. I understand that you need some whipping boys from the smaller leagues there, but modern financial realities dictate that where once upon a time teams like Red Star Belgrade, Steaua Bucharest and Notts Forest (TWICE!) were able to win, the setup and bankrolls of the big teams from the big 4 is simply too much to overcome.

    The Europa League simply isn’t worth it financially. I don’t see it lasting longer, but I most certainly do not want to see a 64 team CL.

    • Question is, how can you re-create the old European Cup model (league winners only) without those teams pocketing $50M pounds a season, thereby cementing their status as the best team in their domestic league year after year? Bosman and ridiculous TV money have made it a different world since then.

      Not saying it can’t be done, but what’s politically feasible?

      • I’m not even necessarily advocating the old way either. I’m willing to see if FFP changes anything, and I believe no decisions should be made until that point. But surely, some of these group stage games are just sad. You get one group with power, then 6 with definite winners and one more with a mid-sized team that may falter. The fans aren’t showing up in large numbers, players get rested for the last 2 games, and people ask why they waste their time.

        • imo they should have 1 more knockout stage prior to the group stage in CL meaning only 16 teams would be in 4 groups with the 2 top making the knockout stage. in that situation the groups would be alot better.

          also for europa league for sure as most have said it should give you a birth in champions league. as I bet that would give certain teams more incentive to take it seriously. like Liverpool or Newcastle for example.

    • So have Sharm and KJ landed somewhere else yet?

  3. Oh, and QPR didn’t win yesterday.

  4. “Despite the win, QPR manager Redknapp remains cautious and says his team still has a long way ahead.” Ummm QPR didn’t win that match…. or any match this season so far.

  5. Is it just me, or is the Europa League actually not THAT bad for what it is, that being a bone tossed to smaller UEFA leagues and non-top-tier teams in the big leagues? Maybe it’s weird to enjoy watching teams that I would never otherwise be able to watch (or even be aware of), and a lot of the smaller teams do go out there and KILL themselves trying to win> That Liverpool-Young Boys match was awesome.

    A CL spot for the winner is a natural, though. Can’t believe it’s taken this long and hasn’t been done yet.

    • Smart teams can use the competition for what it is, a chance to check out younger players, bring players back from injury into match fitness, and rotate the squad.

    • and would you want to play CL if you were in Europa? going from winning to getting thrashed might not be desirable…..though if there is more money involved that isn’t a concern….

      • The past 5 champions are Porto, Zenit, Atletico (twice) and Shakhtar. Not exactly bad teams and not likely to get thrashed.

  6. If UEFA wants to make the Eurpoa League better the simple solution would be that:

    Team That wins the Europa League get automatic spot in the Group Stage of the following seasons Champions League
    Team That finishes as runner up in the Europa League gets an automatic spot in the qualifying round for the following seasons Champions League

    I know it’s mentioned in the article, and I’m far from being the first person to present it, but it really does seem like and easy solution

  7. Why try this make the Europa a straight knockout competition, not based and rankings and no drop downs from the Champions League. That might create some interest.

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