Europe’s Elite Bully Their Way To Champions League Branding

Was always going to happen wasn’t it? Pure greed rather than sporting excellence determining whether clubs get a chance to play in the Champions League.

European Clubs Association
Every few years we see hairbrained schemes and ideas from people who should know better, people like Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, whose play as a world class footballer made sure the merits of Bayern Munich on the pitch were the only criteria for getting into elite European competition. He’s changed his tune now though, simply because for Bayern, missing out on the 50 million a year from UEFA for not getting into the Champions League would be too much to bear.

Forget the competitive merit, it’s all about big clubs acting like complete idiots, telling the rest, “this is our club, you’re not welcome to join in”.

Manchester United and Liverpool in recent years have dipped out of the Champions League while Leicester City could qualify this season on the back of great buys, a great spirit and endeavour.

How dare the greedy elite clubs tell The Foxes that an earned place wouldn’t be theirs because AC Milan have won it 7 times so they automatically enter.

It’s disrespectful, absurd and contrary not only to sporting values and merit but completely contrary to the values on which clubs like Milan were founded on in the first place!

It’s all willy waving though from the European Clubs Association of course. In reality they look after the interest of not only the handful of super clubs but over 100 clubs Europe wide, so they know there’s no chance that the 80 or more clubs who aren’t Champions League regulars are going to essentially vote to lock themselves out of Europe’s premium tournament.

So why bring it up every few years?
It’s simple really. Since the inception of the Champions League, UEFA (like the FA with the Premier League) have been bullied on an annual basis to get their way with everything from scheduling to eye watering prize money to smooth paths for the big clubs to the latter stages.

This makes the tournament more of a procession than a competition these days, so the European Clubs Association keep the pressure on UEFA, making veiled threats to break away, start on their own and push for more changes to make it easier for big brands to be pictured next to an iconic big eared trophy every couple of years.

Contrast this to a former club of mine Nottingham Forest, who would be in the Champions League annually, regardless of division, as they have won it two times, absurd eh?! They retained Europe’s greatest club competition having to beat reigning English champions Liverpool, over two games, in round ONE, unprotected, unseeded, going on to win it.

That’s the way to engrave your name on the trophy, not have every advantage gifted to you based on the labour of players 30 years ago rather than your own toil, effort and skill.

Shop Window
It’s getting to the point now that most football fans realise that the Champions League is simply a shop window for branding. A must have pot in the pre-season picture to “prove” you are a big club rather than playing football and earning that right. So for me there would be a simple solution.

If Barca, Real, United, Liverpool, Bayern, Milan et al want to scoot off and start on their own, let them.

I’m sure Man United and Liverpool fans would soon find the only way of seeing their team play is to get on a bi-weekly Easyjet flight across Europe. Maybe then those two great clubs would realise that they need the bread and butter of earning the right to win trophies, the ups and downs, the challenge to ‘go again’ rather than playing Barca on a loop with no prospect of the thing that drives every great player and every great club, failure.

So if the European Clubs Association vote in the future for a lock in for clubs who’ve won the trophy or clubs with a certain stadium or following, then it’s an affront to every fan, to Fergie, Busby, Stein, Clough, Paisley and Sacchi, because those guys thrived on the competition, the adversity and the journey to success. They all would have hated a system which locks them into a parade of the biggest, without any fear, without a bright new club or team to challenge them, to “knock them off their perch”.

Decision Time
UEFA, you need to decide, continue to let these clubs play you for fools, or tell them to take the highway, go alone and come crawling back down the line.

It’s time to stop the big clubs in their tracks but are UEFA strong enough to take them on? Time will tell.