NYON: European federation UEFA has indirectly acknowledged the sporting imbalance generated by so-called ‘financial doping’ by opening informal consideration of a third continental club competition writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The Champions League and Europa League – UEFA Cup then UEFA League – have been the sole two tournaments on offer ever since the scrapping of the European Cup-winners Cup in 1999.
However the virtual dictatorship of the big-money likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus in the Champions League has sparked concern about a lack of opportunity for clubs from the ‘middle class nations’ who have even been squeezed out of the Europa League honours by Champions League drop-outs.
Hence reports in Switzerland and Germany that a third tournament could be launched in 2021 for the next broadcasting and sponsor package.
The tournament would reportedly comprise 32 teams from smaller domestic leagues so the Europa League would then be reduced from 48 participants to 32, rather than increasing the competition’s pool to 64 clubs as has previously been suggested. The Champions League would be untouched.
The ultimate aim is to improve the quality of the Europa League and eradicate the need for lengthy preliminary qualifying rounds, which has made some clubs view the tournament as a burden given that it can see some teams play as many as eight games before entering the group stage of the competition.
The ‘hidden value’ is the potential of increased revenue from the Europa League’s media and marketing rights plus new streams from tournament No3.
The plans were discussed ahead of last week’s Champions League draw in Monaco.