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Europa League has its merits

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Mihir Bose | 22:20 UK time, Wednesday, 20 May 2009

A few hours before the last ever Uefa Cup final kicked off in Istanbul on Wednesday, a rather forlorn Gunter Netzer stood in a hotel foyer in the Turkish capital and lamented the lack of atmosphere. The German football great, whose mood was no doubt more sombre after seeing Werder Bremen lose to Shakhtar Donetsk in extra-time at the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium, put it down to the absence of a Turkish team.

Yet there had been no lack of atmosphere at the all-Spanish final in Glasgow two years ago and perhaps too much of it in Manchester last year when Rangers took on Zenit St Petersburg. I doubt if the build-up in Istanbul would have been so lacklustre had, say, Manchester City got through. A bully point for those who speak of the special passion the British bring to football, unmatched by any other country.

But then, you might say, what does it matter? After all, this was the last Uefa Cup final in the competition's present format. As for the Europa League, which replaces the Uefa Cup from next season, several Premier League managers have suggested it would not be a disaster if their clubs did not qualify for it.

Werder Bremen fans cheer on their team in the Uefa Cup final

Reading the English media, it would be hard to avoid the conclusion that the Europa League will be the greatest unwanted European football tournament of all time. Yet such a view would not only be Anglo-centric but counter-productive. Both this season's Uefa Cup final in Turkey and the forthcoming Europa League are important events.

Here's why:

Staging the Uefa Cup final in Istanbul - the second European final to be staged in this city in four years, although Wednesday's game did not compare to the dramatic night in 2005 when Liverpool did the impossible - was significant for Turkey because it touched a core part of the its national aspiration.

As the writer Soner Cagaptay put it in Hurriyet Daily News here: "For decades secular Turks put Turkey through painful tests to prove the country's Europeanness. For instance, Turkish soccer teams joined European competitions losing miserably to powerful European teams. The Turks could have competed against the less professional Middle Eastern teams in Asian competitions, but this would have meant that Turkey was not European... The euphoria one witnesses every time Turkey wins a European championship is really joy over the validation of Turkey's European identity."

This latest final was held in the Asian part of Istanbul, the stadium here being better suited to a big match than the one in the European part of the city where Liverpool performed their miracle. And as one Turkish football official put it, that was significant because it represented yet another Turkish step on the road to becoming part of the European Union. It also, they hope, enhanced their bid to stage the European Championships in 2016.

Uefa president Michel Platini and Istanbul mayor Kadir Topbas

Similarly, the Europa League is part of Uefa's long struggle to reconstruct European football in the wake of the success of the Champions League.

I have much sympathy for football romantics who argue that it would be nice if we could go back to three European competitions; a European Cup just for champions, the Cup Winners' Cup - in which British teams always did so well - and the Uefa Cup for those not quite able to be champions of their leagues. But that is a bit like my profession calling for a return to the days when we filed our copy via telegrams or telex. It just cannot happen.

The Champions League is the midweek European league the big clubs have always wanted. It was their threat to decamp and form their own league in 1998 which led to the big leagues of England, Italy and Spain securing four teams in the competition.

It has not been easy for Uefa to come up with a format that works. While the Europa League will now have some of the features of the Champions League - centralised television and marketing deals, for example, plus more television income (150 million euros from next year) - Uefa accepts this competition will always be the little sister.

The kick-off times for Europa League matches - the first at 1815 British time followed by a second at 2005 on Thursday nights - shows just how difficult it is to find a window for this competition. The other major consideration for Uefa is ensuring that the new league caters to the great mass of European clubs who can only experience the Champions League through a television set.

I realise that all this will cut little ice with English critics. But what always puzzles me is how we in England can be so egalitarian at home and so elitist abroad. The FA Cup is the ultimate egalitarian competition. A non-league side can aspire to win the Cup and, as Tottenham proved in 1901, go on to realise their dream. However much we may want it, such a European competition is impossible.

The Europa League is not ideal, but it provides something for the many who will never be part of the elite.

Comments

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  • 1. At 10:49pm on 20 May 2009, bonfirelight wrote:

    UEFA should give the winners of the UEFA cup entry into the champions league (at the group stages).
    It would at least encourage clubs like Villa and Spurs to actually try and win the competition, as well as giving a route into the biggest competition for clubs which otherwise might not be able to make it.

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  • 2. At 10:50pm on 20 May 2009, saifur65 wrote:

    I want Manchester United to win the Champions League Final next week, so we can rub it into Platini's anti-Premier League agenda...I would also like them to win because I'm a Man U fan lol.

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  • 3. At 10:53pm on 20 May 2009, auntiehascontempt wrote:

    "The Europa League is not ideal, but it provides something for the many who will never be part of the elite."

    Circular logic.

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  • 4. At 11:16pm on 20 May 2009, Red_Nic wrote:

    The best thing to do would surely be to scrap the group phases in both European tournaments, and resort to the old two legged ties until the final. It's a lot more exctiting and makes the whole thing more interesting, one bad game and it can all be over for a team, rather than seeing a lot of meaningless, elaborate group games.

    It would reduce some of the fixture congestion, though inevitbly, revenue as well, which the big wigs in the boardrooms would never allow.

    The Romance of football will win over the pound signs eventually.

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  • 5. At 11:30pm on 20 May 2009, eddiesmunters wrote:

    #1 UEFA should give the winners of the UEFA cup entry into the champions league (at the group stages.

    A great call, it's simple & makes so much sense... oh I see the problem

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  • 6. At 00:26am on 21 May 2009, Juan in Florida wrote:

    "the special passion the British bring to football, unmatched by any other country" followed by "Yet such a view would not only be Anglo-centric but [also] counter-productive" is contradictory.

    To say that no one brings passion to football like the British is too anglo-centric. Have you ever seen the celebrations sparked in the home country of a Copa Libertadores winner? What about war-torned Iraquis celebrating their victory? Did you see the images of Iranians going "crazy" simply because they beat the US in the group stages of the 98 World Cup? Last year's Egypt's celebrations? I sincerely doubt that "specially passionate" British fans would play football on a dirt road under the soaring heat with a make-shift paper ball as they do in much of Africa and the Americas.

    Moreover, I don't think you have even considered that Ukrainian fans don't have the economic power of the almighty sterling. They can't afford to go half-way across Europe just to "create an atmosphere" outside the stadium if they don't have tickets to the game. Check out the Ukrainian celebrations in the news tonight and then come back and tell me they are not passionate about football. Just because most of the world's population don't have the resources to follow their favorite team anywhere, doesn't mean they are not passionate about it.

    I do take my hats off to the British for how much they love their football and for how they support their team even if it drops to the third tier (like Leeds). However, you do have some nerve pointing out anglo-centric points of view in the same article where you say the British are more passionate about football than anyone else.

    Football is the world's game, followed by passionate fans almost everywhere.

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  • 7. At 01:23am on 21 May 2009, C Payne wrote:

    This may seem like a strange comment but I think one of the major reasons the UEFA Cup (or from next season the Europa League) has since the birth of the CL as we know it and never will be hugely popular in England is that it is played on a Thurs.

    One may ask why this creates antipathy, well firstly Thursday has never really been seen as a day in which football is played in England but more importantly it means the league fixture the following weekend is moved to the Sunday and the English are incredibly protective and romanticise greatly over the 3pm on a Saturday kick off.

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  • 8. At 02:03am on 21 May 2009, Arctic wrote:

    Asking to go back to the two leg knockout versions of both competitions is great, but as the article said it'll never happen.

    The reason for this is simple, it's not what the clubs want. Again the article gave the reasoning for this. They wanted the revenue and excitement generated by huge clubs from different countries competing in a league format. The Champion's League fails to deliver the excitement but as far as the clubs are concerned the money is more important anyway.

    And it isn't just English clubs that threatened the breakaway league if this wasn't delivered, all of the large European leagues were in on the blackmail that created the Champion's League.

    To prevent the Uefa Cup from going the same way as the Cup Winners Cup, Uefa had to do something. At first they tried that ridiculous mid-competition league system, with no equal home and away ties, and now they're going to try something almost as bad.

    The idea is to allow more of the clubs from the big leagues the money they want from a European league system. It won't work because fans are already bored of the Champion's League and this one is more of the same in an even worse format.

    It's like the idea of putting the FA Cup back on it's perch as the most important competition in English football. It'll never happen because coming 4th in the Premier League is worth more money. Money. The FA can choose to give a Champion's League place to any competition they want. Uefa have always said it's down to the individual football associations to decide how they want to award places in the Champion;s League. They could awarded to the FA Cup and League Cup winners if FA so desired. But it won't happen because the Russian Roulette of knockout football could deny one of England's top 6 clubs from getting a place in Europe's biggest competition.

    The biggest weapon we have to change things into a more exciting and more relevant European competitions is to stop watching football on TV.

    No ratings, no money. When pollers and researchers call to find out why you just say "The league system is too boring, I'd watch if it went back to the knockout format but only if the top competition featured teams that won actual trophies."

    The more people that did this the more likely it would work. Unfortunately too many people wouldn't be willing to do it to save European football from becoming dull and dreary.

    As for British fans being the most passionate. No we're not. We're as passionate as anyone else, but not more so than those from any country where football is the premier sport. As one commenter put it, it just seems that way because we are more able to afford supporting our teams in other parts of the world.

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  • 9. At 07:15am on 21 May 2009, jipfcom wrote:

    English managers don't like the idea of the Europa League as it couldmean an extra 17 matches! That's almost an extra half season. The teams that compete in this league don't have the big squads of Man Utd or Liverpool (who had 62 registered players this season). All those extra games for a little sister cup, which could mean their league performance suffers, especially towards the end of the season.

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  • 10. At 08:17am on 21 May 2009, Haythnasr wrote:

    "However much we many want it, such a European competition is impossible."


    I think it should read "However much we may want it..."

    I think post one makes an excellent pont with the winner of the Europa League getting entrance into the Champions League the next season. Will definetly give the Evertons and Villas of the world a better chance of getting into the "Promised land"

    I'm sure Martin O'Niell would not have fielded such a weakend side in the Uefa cup this year knowing that he was 4 games away from being in the CL.



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  • 11. At 09:03am on 21 May 2009, mac3991 wrote:

    Champions League whilst a fantastic tournament is designed specifically to weed out lesser footballing nations clubs at the earliest possible stage leaving a football feast for English, Spanish, Italien, German and at least one or two others from the lesser leagues.

    It was created to generate huge sums of money which nearly always ends up in the coffers of the elite top 10 clubs in Europe allowing them to further strangle the life out of their domestic leagues.

    The money generate by Porto for example will ensure another few Portugese Championships in a row.

    Monies gained by the English Quartet will ensure that only one of those 4 clubs will win the EPL next season.

    The Champions League has widened the gap between the have's and have not's.....its frankly disgusting.

    Bring back the old format European Cup, CWC and Uefa Cup the Champions of europe should be the holders of their national league or the returning champions of europe.

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  • 12. At 09:32am on 21 May 2009, Bald and Proud wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 13. At 09:35am on 21 May 2009, Ferdinand wrote:

    Don't you just love it when someone (number 10) picks up on a typo to score a petty point - and then makes spelling mistakes in their own comments! LOL.

    Anyway, the best way to save the Europa League is to give the winner a CL spot. The new rules have made the 4th league qualifying place a poisoned chalice anyway - work hard all season and go out in qualifying to a strong team from Italy or Spain: not very fair. I remember when Everton worked hard to get in then drew Villareal - and went out.

    Champagne turned to shandy in seconds. They were so rocked by the disappointment that they were blown out of the UEFA Cup at first hurdle and suffered in league.

    (I can see the same thing happening to Arsenal this year).

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  • 14. At 10:03am on 21 May 2009, Ferdinand wrote:

    Addendum.

    Funny isn't it how on one hand mainland Europeans (Platini etc) lament English success yet on another (Netzer etc) would clearly like to see our teams get to finals for the colour, passion etc that they bring? "Cake and eat it" springs to mind.

    Maybe they should have a play-off system.

    Split the Europa League in two with English/British teams in one half and Euro mainland teams in the other. Winners of each to face each other in the Final. This would guarantee a passionate British presence in the final.

    (I started to write this idea with my tongue in my cheek - but it's growing on me!).

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  • 15. At 10:16am on 21 May 2009, robertcantarero wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 16. At 10:22am on 21 May 2009, Joe G wrote:

    I think Mihr has hot the nail on the head with this article, we all go on about how the UEFA cup used to be, and how wed like it to be. It is all romanticised wishing and in reality the current situation is the lesser of two evils. People talk about how they wish the UEFA cup was a simple two legged cup knockout tournament but when youre actually watching TV on a Thursday night the potential lack of flare in such a format is apparent.

    The idea of a Europa League may seem a bit lame frankly and overly convoluted but look at the alternative For the first few rounds you could have teams like Everton, Fiorentina, Seville, or Bremen playing against weak Eastern European, Scandinavian or Mediterranean opposition. The first leg tie is already a bit unappealing unless you support either team but how much less appealing does it seem when the big team win the first leg 3-0 away. The UEFA cup is always going to throw up games that only really appeal to the fans of the club, die-hard Ill watch any football fans and a few randoms who chance upon the fixture on ITV4 but a knockout tournament offers the distinct chance of a whole raft of dead matches that would in turn risk the death of the tournament as a whole.

    Europe simply MUST have a second tier tournament for teams that arent capable of achieving a CL spot in their domestic league. If you didnt you would have leagues where there are only three goals, being champions, qualifying for the CL and avoiding relegation. Once a team has done the latter and ruled out all three (e.g. Fulham, West Ham etc) then what on earth are they playing for? The death of a second tier European competition would be a hammer blow to domestic league football. Therefore UEFA simply must provide a format that has as its primary aim, financial success. It may seem somewhat mercenary and against the spirit of may the best team win but we are all hypocrites if we say wed watch a simple cup format.

    The Cup Winners Cup was a great competition But why did it die? Because no-one watch any games except the final or if their team was in it. The format was predictable and therefore so were the viewing figures, therefore endorsements for the earlier stages were borderline non-existent.

    The Europa League is a bit silly, but I suspect UEFA knows that, its not perfect and it will probably be scrapped and re-branded in five years but despite what a lot of people say I think Mihr is right, there isnt really an obvious alternative.

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  • 17. At 10:24am on 21 May 2009, cransonssweatband wrote:

    Is the Turkish capital not Ankara?

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  • 18. At 10:25am on 21 May 2009, Gooner Broxi wrote:


    The Champions League is like the popular kids party when we were back at school or uni. The "Dweebs" (for the purposes of this point will be Werder Bremen, Rangers, Shaktar, Everton etc.) might occassionally get an invite, but then find out that they are really there to be the whipping boys and entertainment for the "Cool kids" (Man Utd, Barca, Bayern, Inter), who ritually humiliate the dweebs before they get down to the serious business of scoring with the hot chicks (I may have gone too far with this analogy).


    The lesser teams will then take solace in their own party (i.e. the Europa League), and you know what, that's cool. Everyone finds their level and enjoys themselves in their own way. The only ones complaining are likes of Tottenham, Villa and Valencia who haven't quite realised that they are "dweebs" and viewed as such by everyone else, but are still desperate to be one of the cool kids.

    Of course we all like the Champions League, not to enjoy the players on display would be churlish to say the least, and if you hate it because your team is being left behind then you are hiding behind yet another delusion like the one above. The teams who dominate the Champions League do so because they are the biggest teams in their respective league. They will always get the best players irrespective of the Champions League. All the CL has done is raise the stakes in terms of the wages being paid. Look at Milan, they haven't made the Champs Lge this year (or Juve previously who were relegated). They just spend a ridiculous amount of money and get themselves back into it.

    Of course it isn't fair that these minority of teams get the majority of money, but why should football be any different from normal society? You can romanticise all you like about some utopian football paradise where all clubs are equal but it will never happen.

    We don't choose our teams because they are the richest in the world. Most of the time they are chosen for us before we have graduated out of short pants, and for that reason I'm happy to just sit back and enjoy the quality of football on offer regardless of who is serving it up.

    So, to get to the point [believe it or not there is one], I think the Europa League is a decent attempt as creating a platform for these teams who will never dominate (or qualify for) the Champs Lge, to attain some success and spread the money a little more evenly. I'd rather see my team do well in the Europa League and get to the quarters / semis (or god forbid even win it!) than see qualification for the groups stages or last 16 as success on it's own because of the financial rewards.

    That way we're just falling for the rich kids hype. Sure, we all want to have their clothes and hang out in the cool bars, but really aren't we better just enjoying ourselves in our own skin? The Europa league gives us our own party to enjoy, and we can always still peer through the window of the cool kids party...


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  • 19. At 10:46am on 21 May 2009, Rabster wrote:

    I think UEFA are trying to suit all and possibly end up pleasing none.
    I have also repeatedly heard on MOTD/FF that it "will take 19 games to win" which as far as I can gather it will not, certainly not for the English clubs. The first couple of rounds are for minnows so small not even Scottish sides are involved! What is wrong with that? As Mihir points out it is akin to say, a Southern League team having the dream of just reaching the FA cup third round to have a game against a Man Utd or whoever. I think most fans would prefer a straight knock-out competition but for the moment, football cares about TV cash, not fans. 10 years ago most English sides would have laughed off a tie against a team from Ukraine. "Shaktar who?" "Mickey Mouse league." Not anymore. Just to tie in with your previous blog Mihir, should England win the 2018 bid let us hope the City of Manchester have learned how giant TV screens work, just for those "less passionate" foreign types.

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  • 20. At 11:01am on 21 May 2009, workphil99 wrote:

    I wish our clubs would understand what it means for supporters to actually win a trophy. As a Villa season ticket holder I know that Martin O'Neill went with one objective, namely to qualify for the Champions League, which of course we have missed by a mile, and gave away any chance we had of progressing in the UEFA Cup. Tough call and I respect his focus. However, it's winning things that counts more to the fan, a chance to celebrate, so let's hope we really try to become the first winners of the Europa League next season!

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  • 21. At 11:01am on 21 May 2009, kool, the gang and me wrote:

    Good subject to discuss.

    Not sure why, apart from vanity, they have to re-brand a competition whose worth has only declined in the recent past when group stages were introduced. The UEFA Cup trophy is one of the best in sport and for me carries a huge amount of tradition - the hard one victories in the 70's and 80's by many of Europe's biggest clubs (Liverpool, Juventus, Internationale, Real Madrid etc). Part of the value in winning a trophy is that your club is following such great names.

    It strikes me that money is the problem with the European club competition structure. Too many games in both competitions. Not even the egalitarian FA Cup needs 20 odd games to find a winner. As a result the impact of any UEFA or Europa Cup match is diluted.

    In terms of Netzer's comments, both finals are 'show pieces' and venues and tickets are seen to be distributed 'fairly' by UEFA. So you have mainly the stupid British (me included given the chance) who end up paying a fortune to get a ticket on the black market and hitch-hiking across Europe to see their club in the final, creating that 'buzz' he mentions. It is not untypical to have a 'smaller' stadium of 50,000 for the UEFA Cup final with 10,000 corporate seats, 15,000 seats sold either by lottery or through the local FA/hosting club, leaving 12,500 for each finalist. I don't recall any Liverpool supporters I knew in 77 NOT going to Rome. It's not easy nor cheap to break the system.

    The Thursday night kick off times may work if the TV rights can be sorted and there is some form of regularity - not unpredictable coverage of matches taking place via BBC3 (once), C5 ITV4 anytime between 4pm and 11pm where the broadcasters would rather spend 15-20 minutes after each game involving a Premiership club having pointless dicussions, rather than showing what's going on in the rest of Europe. I would hope one day too that the FA and Sky/Setanta would work out a way of scheduling as few matches as possible on a Sunday. A previous poster is right about how we prefer the traditional Saturday kick off. Matches on Sunday are a no-go area with reduced and often no-existent rail service coupled with late afternoon matches. Can I suggest that the relatively fair system of showing all teams (not just the 'Big 4') means that they show teams already playing on a Sunday because of their Europa cup commitments, thereby keeping a maximum of 3 matches on a Sunday as they seem to have successfully done in other countries where Saturady matches take place (eg. Germany. France).

    If the Europa Cup did work out on the lines above, resulting in prestige and a place in a crowded European calendar, I wonder if it would generate the sort of money whereby successful teams could afford to build squads capable of challenging for Chapions League places. That must surely be the inetention. Unless there is some form of incentive (as hads been suggested with Europa winners qualifying for the Champions League, even the losing finalist or semi-finalist having the chance, say via a play-off), the Europa Cup may not last.

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  • 22. At 11:24am on 21 May 2009, Slartibartfast On Villa wrote:

    The Champions league - What a joke that name is. When was the last time Liverpool were champions of the English football?

    Cartel League more like.

    and 18. Sheer arrogance. Maybe it'll be your place Villa take :)

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  • 23. At 11:30am on 21 May 2009, alpaalpa wrote:

    I have said for several years now that the winners of the UEFA Cup should get a place in the qualifying round of the CL the following season. It would immediately give the tournament more meaning and thus elevate it. I can't understand why it hasn't already been done. Let's face it, the winners coming from it will always be of a higher standard than some of the teams that enter the early rounds of the CL anyway so it doesn't even mean that it is a weaker team entering.

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  • 24. At 11:42am on 21 May 2009, gileswasgod wrote:

    I don't think changing the name will make any difference. Money talks these days in football. Thats why the Premiership and Champions League are so important. Even the FA Cup and Carling Cup are now 2nd rate competitions. Its a fact of life. We just have to get used to it. There is no going back to the good old days.

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  • 25. At 11:54am on 21 May 2009, The Y wrote:

    The Europa League will become a joke league and everyone will call it the Micky Mouse league, however just like the Carling Cup if your own team gets to the semi-final stage suddenly you'll find yourself telling anyone that'll listen how big it is.

    Of course they won't believe a word... Not till there own team gets to the same stage of course!

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  • 26. At 12:04pm on 21 May 2009, U11846789 wrote:

    How to make it relevant?

    1st Place in a league should go into the Champions League. (Hence the word 'champion').

    2nd, 3rd and 4th into the Europa.

    Not rocket science.

    But won't happen cuz the money boyz won't go for it.





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  • 27. At 12:25pm on 21 May 2009, ginge wrote:

    UEFA should give the winners of the UEFA cup entry into the champions league (at the group stages).
    It would at least encourage clubs like Villa and Spurs to actually try and win the competition, as well as giving a route into the biggest competition for clubs which otherwise might not be able to make it.

    I agree great idea, i wonder how long it will take platini and his mates to think of that one! Does anyone know if the the champions league rejects will come in at the knockout stage because this is a farce that allows the bigger teams a second chance of success.

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  • 28. At 12:43pm on 21 May 2009, Richyburger wrote:

    Lets face it this whole new set up is geared towards making more money plain and simple

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  • 29. At 12:58pm on 21 May 2009, Jeremy Orbell wrote:

    Someone mentioned about the demise of the Cup Winners Cup. Well, you only have to look at who has won the FA Cup in England and Scotland over the last 15 years to see that they had already qualified for the Champions League. That's the point. Give out all the extra places to the CL, they get the cash so the rest can't compete so the same old, same old win everything. I'm sure UEFA would've loved to keep three tournaments but they realised you can't award it to a losing semi-finalist.

    The good old days will never return but UEFA only have themselves to blame. Once they inviting in runners-up in it started a slow death and by going down to fourth place makes the UEFA Cup/Europa League virtually pointless. Winning that competition once meant something. It put you up with the elite but now it includes teams dismissed in the CL group stage so therefore not in the top 16 in Europe.

    Let's face it we've had Man City in with a shout this year and Middlesborough even made the final. The only way to give it any credibility is to award the winner a Champions League spot otherwise, what's the point?

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  • 30. At 1:05pm on 21 May 2009, villanash wrote:

    I agree with bonfirelight. Europa Cup winners should get entrance to the champions league the following season - possibly the play off round that precedes the group stages? The incentive would be enormous for the teams who have fielded weakened teams previously (Villa!) and drive the so called bigger teams to do well in the competition. The prestige and interest would increase exponentially. With all due respect, Werder Bremen v Shakhtar Donetsk is hardly a prestige final now is it?

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  • 31. At 1:11pm on 21 May 2009, dkings wrote:

    So, the Europa League has merits because.....?

    The last match before Europa was played in Turkey?
    They play on a Thursday - how has this changed?
    The "lesser" teams get to play? How is this different?

    Mihir - not your best effort.

    What is different about Europa from UEFA Cup??? Aside from the name change of course....and why is it an improvement over UEFA Cup?

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  • 32. At 1:14pm on 21 May 2009, TBY wrote:

    The Champions' League should, and hence won't, include only champions. How can Barcelona claim to deserve their final place when they were not Champions of Spain.

    I think a Barcelona vs Chelsea/Liverpool final would have livened the UEFA Cup too and that Roma vs Valencia would be a great Cup Winners' Cup final.

    However, in real life you can't argue with UEFA getting rid of that horrid group stage and bringing in a better competition.

    I'd like to note also that Shaktar Donetsk's win in this year's UEFA Cup means that either Aston Villa or Everton will go directly into the Group Stage, avoiding the play-off!

    The UEFA Cup was also quite unpredictable, in the last two years the favourites were Bayern and Milan, understandably, and they were both trumped by the East of Europe sides.

    It also gives nations a chance to show themselves; any Man City fan knows where Denmark is! Also, Scotland and Ukraine have had finals in the last two years!

    I think Middlesbrough would have trouble getting to the Champions' League final!

    Give the dog a bone, I like the dweeb's party idea! Newcastle United haven't accepted that they're not the cool kids, never mind uninvited to the Nerd's Star Wars Evening 2010!

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  • 33. At 1:16pm on 21 May 2009, Czechmate wrote:

    I agree with some posters that winning the UEFA cup should qualify entry into the group stages of the champions league, I have alwyas liked the UEFA cup becuase it allows teams that have no realsitic chance of winning the champions league at winning a major european competition. Although it wouldn't happen because of the threat of a eruopean super league i think the three big leagues should have their champions league allocation cut to three again.

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  • 34. At 1:18pm on 21 May 2009, Zootmac wrote:

    The only way to restore any kind of equilibrium in European football is to restrict the number of foreign players each team is able to field. Otherwise the cheque-book teams will continue to exercise their monopoly.

    Famously, Glasgow Celtic became the first British team to win the European Cup, in 1967, with a team composed of players, none of whom was born more than thirty miles from Celtic Park. They reached the final, again, three years later. They WERE "Glasgow" Celtic, the European champions.

    What ARE the current European football giants? And why should anyone, outside of their deluded supporters, and dubious billionaire backers, be remotely interested in their antics?

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  • 35. At 1:38pm on 21 May 2009, eltonwolf wrote:

    Personally I find it difficult to take this cup seriously. When all the teams have been through the different stages in the first half of the of the competition, and have been reduced down to the last 24 teams. They then find that they are joined by eight 3rd place failures from the champions league. It seem everything is stacked in favour of Champion League teams, fail in one cup, then drop in the poor mans competition.

    The early stages of the Europa cup should reduce the teams to 32 teams for the KO stage. The 3rd place failures from the Champions league should just drop out of Europe altogether.

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  • 36. At 2:33pm on 21 May 2009, Scottishscouser wrote:

    Anything coming from that nasty place Europe is jumped on by the 'English' media. Premier league clubs have obviously got ideas above their station if they think qualifying for the Europa league is a bad thing. Everton fans had a great time 2 seasons ago. I doubt Moyes would have devalued the competition this season in the same way that O'Neil and Redknapp did or Megson the year before. That was disrespectful!

    If English teams and the English media don't wish to be in the Europa league, they should give their places up to countries that won't disrespect it.

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  • 37. At 2:54pm on 21 May 2009, U13967209 wrote:

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  • 38. At 3:11pm on 21 May 2009, chriskillz wrote:

    I do agree in principle with the winners of the europa league getting into the champions league the following season, but surely this would mean if an english, spanish or italian team won the europa league then they would end up with 5 teams involved in the champions league which doesnt really seem right to me.
    They should also move the games from thursday nights to tuesday nights alternating with the champions league so that there is a good european football game on most tuesday nights. it seems a bit pointless having games on tuesday and thursday one week and nothing the next. If this was the case i would allways watch the europa leagues/uefa cup matches but at the moment i tend not to bother.

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  • 39. At 4:42pm on 21 May 2009, crokey wrote:

    #1

    Good idea. And there would be one more champion in the Champions League.

    #17

    Great spot; very 'anglo-centric'! ;-)

    #18

    "why should football be any different from normal society?"

    Because it can be (via regulation) and it would be more interesting.

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  • 40. At 5:37pm on 21 May 2009, Phil wrote:

    Why are so many saying 'Give the winners of the Europa League a Champions League place'???

    Look at the 2 teams in the final this year - Werder and Shakhtar were both in the Champions League to begin with! Werder were automatically in the groups and Shakhtar the third qualifying round.

    The winners, Shakhtar, have already qualified for the Champions League for next year, so what benefit do they gain having won the tournament? Or then do the runners up Werder get given a spot? Seems unfair.

    Last year Zenit won the tournament, but had already won the Russian League and qualified for the Champions League, so what benefit would they have got? Would you then give it to Rangers - no, because they were also in the Champions League - so then do you give it to a losing semi finalist? It starts to get stupid!

    SOME clubs field weakened teams. Thats their choice. Does Alex Ferguson field his best 11 for every game? No, he rotates players. So do most other clubs to some degree, although the further down the table you are, the harder it is to have such a big squad.

    All the added games mean a lot of extra money for the participating clubs, therefore they have more money for a bigger squad.

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  • 41. At 6:52pm on 21 May 2009, Ferdinand wrote:

    Good point Deats80 (number 40) but I think the whole point of this thread is how to get more English clubs/fans interested. Aston Villa, Spurs etc will, perhaps, never qualify for CL via EPL - but if they could via EL they would be more likely to go for success in that competition.

    I enjoyed last night's final but wouldn't it be more interesting (for UK fans anyway) if it was Spurs, Everton or Villa etc vs whoever?

    Another point - the revenue watchers. Probably only Germany delivered a TV audience anything like worthwhile for sponsors/advertisers (sorry but for all its resources Ukraine is not yet a cash-rich consumer society) so I think we'll see this change happen - money-men rule football. To be fair, if they give the fans what they want - big games with big names - is that such a bad thing? Idealists like Platini are very admirable but the real world turns differently. Many people admire the core principles of communism - but do any of us truly want to live in a communist state?

    Final thought: why play EL games in same week as CL? (Assuming UEFA continue with this pattern). If on Tue and Wed you have, say, Liverpool vs Real Madrid and Man U vs Barcelona, then, for example, Villa vs Metalist Kharkiv on Thu is going to seem poor fare by comparison. With a week of space between them they would look much more appealing. Surely this is easily done.

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  • 42. At 7:09pm on 21 May 2009, kkandnathan wrote:

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  • 43. At 8:06pm on 21 May 2009, Zulu Warrior wrote:

    #22 is spot on.
    Have up to four teams from each nation if you will, but it should be a knockout Cup just like the FA cup. No place for all these UEFA coefficients to ensure 'safe passage' to the cartel. No seedings, its becoming like Wimbledon. Oh yes and no special treatment if you do not qualify.
    The vested interests of the cartel are much too strong and the English league has sadly become like the old firm monopoly in Scotland. Since the Premiership was incepted, the weight of cash has become so disproportionate as to make the contest a farce. But still the loyal deluded (from the North East, the Midlands and most points outside the Rich 3) maintain their hope.
    The imbalance wil probably lead (if we are not there already) to the decline in the domestic leagues across Europe.
    Its time to reapportion the dosh before Villa Spurs Everton West Ham Sunderland and all the great names of are no longer viable.

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  • 44. At 9:55pm on 21 May 2009, Phil wrote:

    Its hard to get English fans interested in the Europa Cup for a few reasons....

    Money - its hard enough for most folk to shell out for their season ticket and whatever away tickets they buy - and pay for the transport, food, programmes etc etc. Throw in an extra 7 or 8 Thursday night games (home, let alone the away ones!) and people a) cant afford it b) cant get time of work. So attendances will be low

    Poor opposition - The Champions League normally has the big clubs. People who cant afford to pay to watch every game will choose to pay to watch Man Utd visit, rather than Lech Poznan, Lyn Oslo or whoever it may be.

    Too many games - If your team is a success in the league, both cups and europa league, you would have almost 2 games a week for a large part of the season. Some fans just aren't interested in watching their team play Bury midweek, Arsenal saturday and Elfsborg on thursday, followed by chelsea on Sunday. More than likely they just pick the premier league games and the attendances for the 2 cups suffers.

    Personally i dont think it makes a difference if a game is on a Tuesday, Weds or Thursday. Its still midweek. If Barcelona played Villa on a Thursday, would the ground be half empty because it wasn't a Weds? I doubt it.

    When Leeds had their great UEFA Cup runs in the late 90's i went to all the home games and a few aways. With it been over 2 legs, the ties were always crucial. If it had been a league system, then there would no doubt have been meaningless ties in the last round of the group, if not previous rounds too. Some fans dont want to watch 'Dead ties'. Knockout competitions are always far more exciting.

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  • 45. At 11:12am on 22 May 2009, thegillsguvnor wrote:

    The key issue with the UEFA Cup/Europa League is the way certain clubs treat it with such contempt. Immediately springing to mind are Parma in 2005 (even though they reached the semi-finals), Portsmouth, Bolton and Aston Villa. Fielding weakened teams in a competition you have worked so hard to qualify for the season before is a lousy way of conning fans into thinking the club are fighting for something worthwhile. If anything, clubs who do field weakened teams should be punished (points deduction, compensatory fine perhaps?), although a way of working out how to measure this would be tricky.

    It will be interesting to see if the centralised prize money and healthy sponsorship and TV deals will see a good rise in prize fund and, in turn, more interest from clubs who have qualified to actually go for it. I hope so, but I suspect not from some English clubs.

    Give the winner the carrot of Champions League qualification the next season too, or at least the highest-placed team finishing who hasn't already gained UCL qualification. The UEFA Cup/Europa League is not a nothing competition, nor has it ever been a pinnacle in the European club calendar, despite the calibre of club who would qualify, pre-UCL. But it has a place in the calendar.

    http://lesrosbifs.wordpress.com

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  • 46. At 1:54pm on 22 May 2009, kkandnathan wrote:

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  • 47. At 9:42pm on 22 May 2009, Phil wrote:

    thegillsguvnor - a bit of a silly idea docking points, taking money etc etc for fielding a weakened team. Have you heard of squad rotation? Benitez rests gerrard and torres in the Premier League, so IF they were in the Europa League and he rested them, you think they should be punished? Maybe they should be punished for resting them in the Premier League too? Maybe Man U should be punished for resting Ronaldo, Rooney, Berbatov, Giggs some games?

    The reason teams have a squad is to rest players and cover for injuries.You cant expect every player to play every game in a season. Teams are quite entitled to field any players they want, as long as they are not deliberately trying to lose the game. Man Utd will do that this weekend, and who can blame them? Or maybe we can deduct 3 points from them and that really could spice the weekend fixtures up!

    Finally, its not the Premier League teams devaluing the competition, its UEFA. They changed a successful knock out cup - i went to Elland Road, watching great games in packed stadiums - into a mickey mouse league that teams and fans could normally do without. Playing these extra games has an effect on the players, their performances suffer as a result, the paying public lose out.

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  • 48. At 9:54pm on 22 May 2009, Phil wrote:

    And giving CL qualification as a prize just doesnt work. What if Bolton won the cup, qualified for the CL and got relegated in the same year as a result of burn out? You could have a Championship Club playing in the Champions League! What a joke.

    And by your comment about giving it to the team thats not already qualified if the team that wins it has, that could mean a semi finalist or even losing quarter finalist! Then which team do you pick from the 4 that lost? Completely impractical

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  • 49. At 1:53pm on 23 May 2009, jonesstrikesback wrote:

    Mr Bose, an interesting take on things but i would like to offer my ten bob. Just a different way of looking at the Turkish element of Europeanism or Middle Eastern viewpoint. I know so many Turks. They love their football and you only have to look at the inroads they've made internationally as well as in the domestic club game to say they made a good choice in competition. There is a lot of money in the league and Im not so sure it is about the Turkish correspondents viewpoint of being European. I know many Turks against the idea still. I would put it down to being competitive in int and domestic football. At club level, Fenerbache et all would probably have to deal with the Asian Champions league. The standard of that competition is average at best and would have to play the likes of Bonyodkor, Grampus, or even some Aussie sides -not least forgetting the woeful Singapore Armed Forces who's first goal came from a 40 year old Bosnian last week... At the top, they would be playing weak international teams and that would hamper the Turkish national team. Its more about Turkish sides becoming successful than belonging to Europe or the middle east or forming national identity. The Europa league is a re brand of football to make it more appealing to central Europe, to get more money coming in and hopefully boost the coffers of clubs taking place. Part of UEFA and Fifa's drive to keep football competitive and offer more clubs say like Cluj from Romania a chance of moving up to competitive status in the Champions league. It will be a long process and i really cant see the British club argument from the likes of Villa or Spurs. Its a format that will hold them in better sted should they get to the CL and offer them more money to bolster their squads. Anyone feel free to shoot me down in flames.

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  • 50. At 11:20am on 24 May 2009, kkandnathan wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 51. At 00:34am on 26 May 2009, BlueLiverBird wrote:

    Until such time as UEFA calls the bluff of clubs as regards setting up their own Super League then I fear we are trapped in the vicious circle whereby the same old clubs dominate the CL in a system designed to suit them.

    They even give the 3rd place finishers in the CL Groups the safety net of 'dropping' into the UEFA Cup - the protectionism offered to these clubs amazes me.

    Why should clubs be offered an escape route if they fail in one competition to progress in another at an advanced stage ?

    Giving the UEFA Cup winners a place in the CL is a good start in breaking up the current 'pigs in the trough' system but not when you're giving teams who've already tripped up in the CL a helping hand back in.

    The old maxim that money goes to money has never been more personified by modern day football and the lack of pressure from the written media to change it doesn't surprise me as they have their own snouts right in there as much as TV & the 'big' (business) clubs.

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  • 52. At 10:43am on 26 May 2009, Pendle_Witch wrote:

    I printed some details about the Europa League from UEFA's website some weeks ago. Reading through it, thoughts of the tea-towel that explained cricket to foreigners sprang to mind.

    I mean, 25 matches for starters around the time of Wimbledon, followed by another 40, followed by another 35, culminating in the "important" 37 matches when the first lot of 15 teams have been picked up from the Champions League (with 18 more to follow).

    Then it's the 12 groups of four......etc.

    The revamped Champions League is a lot easier to follow.

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  • 53. At 10:20pm on 26 May 2009, jim tomlinson wrote:

    Can I submit a set of tables which I have compiled comparing the 4 west midlands clubs records in the TOP flight of English football?

    (Order of team names determined by the position in THEIR first season)
    1888/89 = ASTON VILLA; WOLVES; ALBION; 1891 OR 1892 = BLUES

    TABLE 1 - ACTUAL POINTS gained in the TOP FLIGHT of ENGLISH LEAGUE FOOTBALL
    TEAM POINTS
    ASTON VILLA 4431
    WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 2713
    WEST BROMWICH ALBION 2365
    BIRMINGHAM CITY 2017

    TABLE 2 - A LIST OF TOP TEN, AND ALL POSITION FINISHES:-
    POSITION VILLA WOLVES ALBION BLUES
    1 7 3 1 0
    2 10 5 2 0
    3 2 6 1 0
    4 6 4 5 0
    5 5 4 2 0
    6 14 4 4 1
    7 5 0 5 2
    8 9 2 3 1
    9 3 2 3 3
    10 8 1 5 2
    TOTAL IN TOP 10 69 31 32 9
    % IN TOP TEN 63% 28% 29% 8%
    11 3 3 3 5
    12 2 2 4 4
    13 4 2 7 5
    14 1 4 5 2
    15 4 3 0 2
    16 6 3 6 1
    17 2 2 5 7
    18 1 3 3 3
    19 1 0 2 7
    |20 1 4 1 5
    21 3 1 0 3
    22 1 1 4 2
    Total top league 98 59 72 55
    % IN TOP LEAGUE 89% 55% 65% 50%
    SEASONS OUT 12 51 38 55
    FA ACUP WINS 7 4 4 0
    * EUROPEAN CUP WINS 1 - - -
    * VILLA ARE THE MOST SOUTHERLY TEAM IN BRITAIN TO WIN THE EUROPEAN CUP / CHAMPIONS LEAGUE, I.E NO LONDON TEAM HAS YET WON THEM.
    SEASON 1987/88 WAS THE ONLY ONE WHEN ALL FOUR WERE OUT OF THE TOP FLIGHT


    TABLE 3 - TOP SIX FINISHES:-
    ASTON VILLA 44
    (MORE THAN OTHER THREE CLUBS TOGETHER)
    WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 26
    WEST BROMWICH ALBION 16
    BIRMINGHAM CITY 1

    I am posting this table in the Europa Cup Blog as Aston Villa have again qualified for Europe and this is the only Blog dealing with this Cup.
    Jim Tomlinson.

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  • 54. At 11:28am on 28 May 2009, thegillsguvnor wrote:

    @ 47/48

    OK, how many league starts did Bannan and Albrighton get for Villa this season, for example? Add Delfounesno and Osbourne to that list. Alas, they were parts of weakened sides Villa put out in the UEFA Cup, thereby making a mockery of the competition - a competition they worked so hard to qualify for last season and this.

    So why not deduct points from them?

    Oh and course I have heard of squad rotation. The difference being with your examples that Liverpool have a much stronger squad, with depth in each position, thereby allowing Rafa Benitez to field different teams on occasion. He doesn't do so drastically in different competitions though.

    You had a very simplistic view of life in an earlier post when you said that more games = more money = more players. And it isn't impractical for a team who have reached the last 4/8 to be rewarded a CL place if those above have already qualified. It all adds to the meaning of the competition, something that has, sadly, waned in recent years.

    http://lesrosbifs.wordpress.com

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  • 55. At 11:37am on 30 May 2009, U13982173 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

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