Recently, UEFA have announced that they will be introducing a new 32-team competition to go alongside the Champions League and Europa League from the year 2021. Presumably, this decision has been made in order to accommodate teams that would never usually gain qualification into the two established competitions. One can almost see why they have thought it right to do this, with more inclusivity the presumed incentive.
However, from a British point of view, as an audience member, and a supporter of one of these clubs, it could have a whole new set of ramifications, most of which could be worrying for the parties involved.
One can imagine that this competition, like the other two, will be widely broadcasted and available to paying audiences (All UCL and UEL games are currently available to BT Sport customers). However, the issue that will surely arise will be how many viewers, who are not supporters of the respective clubs involved, will want to watch these games, which will be, for all intents and purposes, Europe’s third tier of football.
The argument will surely be that with less well-known clubs involved, the high quality of football, currently seen in the Champions League, will be lacking, and this will surely drive away potential neutral viewers.
Congested fixture lists
Another issue, which will affect the supporters of these clubs involved, will be the already congested fixture lists that European football brings. Looking from an English point of view, a team that is in the Europa League, in order to win the competition, must play a minimum of fifteen games over the course of a season (and this is discounting any qualifiers needed before the group stages get started). It is well known that these matches always take place midweek, as to not interfere with the domestic leagues, but if a club was to have a cup run to go alongside a European run, this would result in serious difficulties in getting all their matches in.
What’s more, even with all these matches being fitted in, this would inevitably take its toll on the players involved, meaning that the reward of European football could even hamper their domestic form due to the workload for the players. If a team was to be in this situation, they would surely need to spend substantially more, in order to bolster their squad in preparation for this potential marathon.
European football becoming a mockery?
So with more teams playing more matches, but potentially fewer viewers watching these games, is European club football becoming a joke? Back in the day, gaining qualification into European football was a massive achievement for a club. Even personally, as a Tottenham fan, I had to endure the heartbreak of seeing my team come 3rd in the Premier League, yet fail to acquire Champions League football in 2012, as a result of another British team winning the competition the same year. However, just last season, due to circumstances, Burnley (without any disrespect to them), gained qualification to the Europa League, despite finishing 7th in the Premier League.
With another European club competition coming into play, are we going to see a situation where half of the twenty Premier League teams are going to get European football? And if so, does this mean that the glory and magic of midweek European football will be lost?