Last week Michel Platini made it public knowledge that UEFA was considering making the UEFA Champions League a 64 team tournament rather than the current 32-team incarnation. It comes after several sources have criticised the current Europa League set-up which has failed to live up to the former UEFA Cup incarnation as the second tier European tournament.
Since the last expansion of the Champions League which has seen as many as four teams potentially qualifying from one country the standard of the second tier competition has dropped significantly.
While it is still held in high regard on the Iberian peninsula - where Portuguese and Spanish sides have dominated in recent years and in Eastern Europe - where the likes of Shakhtar Donetsk, Zenit Saint Petersburg and CSKA Moscow have all managed to put their names on the map with victory it has started to lose its gloss around the rest of Europe.
Struggling TV figures, lack of revenue and decreasing spectator attendances; not to mention the turmoil the Thursday night matches are having on domestic football have seen it v victimised by many bodies in the past 18 months.
With worries over the formation of different Super Leagues Platini believes scrapping the Europa League and making the primary tournament double the size could offset these worries.
For once I agree with him. The Champions League is where the interest and invariably the money is at. The Europa League in comparison looks like the weedy little brother being held at arm’s length by the older sibling throwing punches an inch away from the midriff.
However, unsurprisingly I am confused about some elements of Platini’s new idea; mainly the idea that as many as seven teams from the continents biggest countries could qualify. While obviously it might be great news for the Premier League, especially the likes of Tottenham, Everton and Liverpool who have recently struggled to finish in the top four what about the rest of Europe?
If England is getting seven teams you can reason that Spain and Germany would also have the same potential amount. Obviously this would be through a qualifying round system similar to now but surely to offset the threat of monopolising the bigger leagues any more then they already have it would be better to downsize the element of English and Spanish teams in particular and allow other nations Champions automatic qualification. From countries such as Cyprus, Poland, Austria, Switzerland etc. the champions should be allowed automatic entry which under the format being proposed does not seem the case. Rather they would go through qualification and potentially lose to a team that finished seventh in Bundesliga.
Some may argue that this is a good thing. That only the crème de la crème of continental football will feature. But how are the other nations supposed to make an impact or retain their star players without the potential to play Champions League football.
While the competition may be slightly diluted in the long run it would make the whole of Europe a more competitive football market.
Do you think the 64 team model can work with SEVEN potential English entrants?
image: © Jan S0L0