UEFA president Michel Platini recently confirmed that the prospect of scrapping the Europa League and merging it with the Champions League is under consideration. His exact words were, “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.” Another idea under consideration is to to offer a place in the Champions League to both finalists of the Europa League from 2015.
Now lets be honest, there is a definite need for radical changes. The Europa League, Platini’s brainchild that replaced the UEFA Cup, lacks appeal. The crowds are small. The interest shown by TV channels is almost non-existent. And don’t even get me started with the football on display! Then again, that’s mostly down to the format. Platini modeled the Europa League’s format on that of the Champions League. Maybe it would have been a better idea to change the format altogether. But the fact is, the competition isn’t taken all that seriously by anyone and something must be done to change the dismissive attitude towards it. However, what Platini has suggested is far from viable.
Platini has the rare ability to come up with ideas that are always nothing short of ridiculous. Look at it this way: of the 16 places up for grabs in the Champions League knockout stages, 13 have already been decided. And let’s be honest, who cares whether you finish 1st or 2nd in your group as long as you make it through to the knockout stages. This means that almost all matches on Matchday 6 will be dead-rubber fixtures. If the number of teams taking part in the Champions League is doubled, the number of group matches will also increase and with it the number of dead-rubber matches, ensuring that the Champions League loses quite a bit of it’s allure.
Secondly, there is the issue of scheduling. The Champions League runs over the course of the whole season, but then clubs have other fixtures too. How exactly is the scheduling going to ensure that the matches are well spaced out and doesn’t end up taking it’s toll on the players? And with so many new teams now a part of the Champions League, how exactly would the format of the Champions League change so as to ensure that the tournament isn’t a boring one? Would the existing format be adjusted or scrapped altogether? These are all questions that remain unanswered. I doubt Platini has even thought this whole thing through.
To be perfectly honest, Platini’s idea of scrapping the Europa League and merging it with the Champions League simply won’t work. What he should be focusing on is revamping the Europa League. He can change the format by removing the group stages and returning to a more traditional knockout format. This would add a competitive edge to the matches and ensure that it’s a do-or-die situation for all teams from Day 1 itself, hence making the tournament in general more exciting to watch. In turn, this will lead to more viewership and more sponsorship, meaning more prize money…. who knows, the teams taking part in the Europa League and the football world in general might just start taking the tournament more seriously.
Here’s hoping Michel Platini doesn’t ruin Champions League football for all of us!