Manchester City have landed draws dubbed the 'Group of Death' in successive years. Scott Rumsey argues why ahead of tomorrow's draw, the system is unfairly weighted.
With a large number of big name clubs progressing to the latter rounds of European competitions, does ranking teams mean some smaller clubs may never progress?
Whilst the allure of winning the Champions League makes it the biggest prize in club football, is it time that UEFA took a lesson out of the FA’s book and draws parallels with the world’s most famous cup competition… The FA Cup?
We have to understand that football is no longer a working class game; the price of our season tickets are but a drop in the ocean and with players like Gareth Bale, being touted around for astronomical sums of money, its clear that money talks.
For this very reason, the heads of UEFA want to see the biggest names contesting the latter stages of their competitions, there is no room for ‘the magic of the cup’ or underdogs, and whilst I understand this I can’t help but think that this is what’s fundamentally wrong with the Champions League.
By having a system that’s based on seeding’s and previous performances, you end up categorising teams, now whilst Barcelona or Bayern Munich could claim to be the best teams in Europe, the reality is that they are often allowed to be in these lofty positions.
The prize money that is generated by winning or doing well in the Champions league can be reinvested in players for a club and this means they get better, a point proven when people say that Chelsea, Manchester City, Real Madrid and now PSG are ‘buying’ success, but what of the teams that are national champions several times over like Celtic, Dynamo Kiev and Lyon who all seem to suffer when the draw for the group stages is made.
In essence the statement that the rich get richer whilst the poor get poorer resonates around the Champions League draw, if the powers that be want a truly competitive European competition, then they have to include the whole of Europe and not show favouritism to teams from Spain, England, Germany and Italy.
The only logical way to do this is to keep the qualifying tournament and the current allocations in terms of where the teams finish in their domestic leagues, but when the time comes to form groups we simply have to forget ranking teams, especially historically.
Another grey area is that teams from the same domestic league cannot meet in the groups, but why should this be the case?
If you are going to be the best then surely to have to play the best, in my opinion a group containing Barcelona, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Paris St-Germain would be far more entertaining and a real test than if one of these teams were to face Marseille, FC Copenhagen and Austria Vienna.
If the draw did throw up a ‘group of death’ then the teams in question would have to perform in all six fixtures , whereas another group containing those from smaller profile leagues or lower in the rankings would have a realistic chance at progression, therefore raising their profile and ultimately more money.
The benefit of course is for the smaller teams in the short term, but their domestic leagues in the long term, spreading the wealth as well as developing and nurturing local talent.
If the current format remains, and Champions can’t compete evenly, then surely we should resort back to the title, ‘European Cup’ instead of the Champions League.
I get the UEFA way of thinking but whilst we constantly argue over goal line technology and extra officials to make the game fairer then why not start at the bottom.
This year’s seeds, depending on the remaining fixtures tonight are as follows:
POT 2/3: (Dependent on tonight’s results) Juventus and Manchester City
POT 3/4: (Dependent on tonight’s results) Bayer Leverkusen, Copenhagen, Anderlecht
image: © [puamelia]