European football is becoming more and more elitist. Our beloved sport is being transformed into a game for the few rich and famous, while the neutral football fan and thousands of other football lovers around Europe are being ignored and cruelly let down by UEFA.
The Champions League was instated in the early nineties to become a tournament where domestic champions of all European countries would face each other and battle for the title of European champions. After a couple of seasons, UEFA saw the financial values of their new tournament, and started allowing vice-champions of the biggest leagues into the tournament. This unfortunately was not the ending: soon the rich clubs put more and more pressure on UEFA, which resulted in a transformation of the Champions League set-up into a tournament allowing even the numbers 3 and 4 from the biggest leagues into the tournament.
As it stands currently, the number 4 of Italy has it easier to qualify than the actual domestic champions of countries such as Lithuania, Hungary, Ireland or Cyprus. And to make sure the big clubs don’t risk missing out much money, the losers of the third qualifying round have the UEFA Cup to save their European season (whereas the vice-champions of leagues such as the Icelandic or Latvian have to play two qualifying rounds).
The way it is going now, UEFA is killing its own sport. Not only the rich and powerful teams have an easier route qualifying, the bigger leagues also have more teams in the Champions League where the big money is. So while 4 Italian teams can enrichen themselves every year, only 1 Cypriot or Bosnian side can (if they manage to get through the qualifiers, that is). Also, victories in the UEFA Cup result in less points for a country's coefficient than victories in the Champions League: this means top countries have much more chances of earning points than smaller leagues, because the bigger leagues send more representative teams in the Champions League where most coefficient points can be earned: this means the coefficient of bigger leagues will always remain bigger than other countries' leagues, which in its way keeps the multiple Champions League slots for the biggest countries intact. It's a vicious circle and a system truly set up to keep the power and dominance of the already wealthy teams intact. This proves UEFA cares about little more than publicity and money, rather than about 'football for all'. The system just exists to protect the power of the biggest clubs and to further extend their power.
UEFA this way has totally raped its own tournament, transforming the Champions League into an elitist tournament where always the same clubs participate. This is totally uninteresting for true football fans who also love discovering new teams and new stadiums (which is an essential aspect of the charms of European football) and causes a huge deja-vu feeling to any football fan not involved with any of the participating clubs. UEFA just turned its own gala into an elitist happening where the wealthy and famous clubs dictate the law. The already wealthy and powerful clubs have it much easier to qualify, thus they will further enrichen themselves in the Champions League. The financial gap between these clubs and the rest of Europe, will grow so big that it will never be closed. It means every season the same clubs compete, resulting in an utterly boring and highly predictable tournament where only the fans of these happy few teams are treated with top football, but sooner or later even the most fanatic neutral football fan will have enough of seeing always the same encounters.
The gap with the rest of Europe will grow so big it won't ever be closed again. This goes against the 'football for all' principles of UEFA. Thousands of football fans from countries like Moldova, Georgia, Finland, etc are being robbed from their chance of ever seeing a top game close to home. Allowing the champions of smaller leagues into the Champions League however, would mean they have a chance to actually grow and develop: experience in top football would make the teams stronger, the financial incomes would also mean these teams can further strengthen their squad, the fact that top football games are hosted in countries such as Albania would trigger a bigger public interest in local teams. This will result in a bigger fanbase for the domestic leagues of these countries and in a better level of play, and soon Europe would see a few new top teams rising. There would be more potential winners and they would be better spread geographically (allowing more people from all over Europe to enjoy top football), and the European cups would be highly unpredictable, which is much more pleasant for neutral fans than always seeing the big clubs over and over again.
If we leave the Champions League as it is now, it will eventually kill European football ; if we reform it and give the smaller teams a fair chance again, it will soon enough result in bigger public interest in all domestic leagues, better level of play in all domestic leagues, more potential winners for the European cup, and more unpredictable games in Europe. If we want to save the future of our beloved sport, than we need to boycot the Champions League as it is now, and eventually restore it to its original set-up where only true champions are allowed.
If we leave the Champions League as it is:
- we will see always the same participants, until the whole world is bored of seeing always the same names and faces over and over again;
- the wealthy clubs from bigger leagues are protected in their status of superpower, and they will further enrichen until the gap with the rest of Europe cannot be closed anymore;
- only the fans of the happy few big clubs can enjoy top football, whereas football fans in Latvia, Iceland, Wales, etc are stuck with amateur leagues and never seeing any good game in their country;
- domestic titles in bigger leagues lose their value: in the past, Manchester United would be angry and ashamed for finishing second behind Chelsea, since the CL is open to non-champions the big clubs consider a second place in the league almost equally good to a first place.
If we reform the Champions League back to its original format:
- we will see a rise in experience and financial means of clubs in smaller leagues;
- this will eventually lead to these teams becoming stronger and playing a role in European football;
- this will lead to a bigger public interest in their domestic leagues rather than in fans travelling to England or Italy for games;
- there will be more potentials winners for the European cups, and the potential winners will be better spread geographically;
- the European cups will be less predictable and more sensational;
- football fans from all over Europe can enjoy top football without having to travel to Milan, Barcelona or Manchester;
- domestic titles will get their full value again, as the second place in the Serie A or Premiership would no longer be enough for qualification for the 'money-making' Champions League.
If we reform the European football now, we can save our beloved sport from becoming elite-esque, and make it a true football party for everyone, regardless what country they are from. We are tired of seeing always the same classic teams, and want the original charm back: a team from England travelling to Kazachstan instead of facing another 'deja vu' team from Italy.
So what we want is very clear:
- we want the Champions League to be open only to domestic league winners. Non-league winners, even if they're named Juventus or Real Madrid, should go into the UEFA Cup. Actual domestic champions of countries such as Ireland, Albania or Slovenia deserve to play the Champions League and to be given a chance to further develop.
- if the UEFA insists on allowing vice-champions: we will not encourage it, but if they do insist on it: a strict demand is that these all play qualifiers whereas champions (also of smaller leagues) are qualified directly.
- we want European cups to be restored to the original formats without seeded teams that are protected. The charm of European football is that the draw can put Madrid versus Bayern Munich in the first round, while Llanelli faces La Valetta. We do not want bigger teams to have a protected status so that they avoid each other until the final stages of the European cups.
- if possible (though no strict demand) we want the European Cup for national cup winners back.
The Reform European football petition to UEFA was written by Gerrit De Feyter and is in the category Sports at GoPetition.