LACK OF COMPETITION IS KILLING THE GAME - HERE AND IN EUROPE
THE eight top seeds all win their groups. Then they all win in the last 16.
First time in the history of the Champions League it’s happened.
The quarter-finals are made up of teams from the four biggest, most lucrative TV markets on the continent.
The competition has finally become the elitist wet dream every UEFA bureaucrat always hoped it would be.
They’d be as well just making it an actual league now and being done with it.
That’s what they want, right? The mega-rich to get richer, the merely wealthy left in their wake.
And God help football’s poor.
I was always brought up to believe that the essence of sport was uncertainty of outcome. Take it away? Why even bother?
If your game becomes a procession, what incentive is there for fans to turn up at the gate, to switch on their TV, to put a line on at the bookies?
Yet somehow some evil genius in Nyon has managed to distil the essence of what used to be a season-long quest to narrow down the best of the best from every country into an event that starts for real every year on April 1 and ends by the middle of May.
Tell the truth, how many of you have been in the Champions League’s thrall this year? How many of you sat glued to the groups, or stuck with it through the month-long lake of treacle that the Round of 16 has become with staggered fixtures?
It’s like they’ve deliberately tried to kill your interest. To condition you into thinking: “**** me, this is dull, can we just get to the bit where the big teams meet?’
And voila, as Michel Platini would say.
Here’s your dinner. Four mouthwatering ties. Who wouldn’t want to watch any of them? Listen carefully. You hear that creaking sound? That’s the bank vaults of Switzerland getting close to bursting.
But it’s only taken a decade for the Champions League groups to go from being appointment viewing in every house in the country to take-it-or-leave-it TV for eight and a half of the 10 months the tournament runs for.
People want competition.
If you create this strata of mega clubs it’s inevitable the only competition you’ll eventually get will be when they play each other. Especially in a knockout format. Different in a league set-up, which is where they are inexorably heading.
It’s why people crave Rangers being back in our top flight alongside Celtic. A two-horse race was always bad enough to thole for the rest of us but a one-horse race?
Who’s going to keep paying to watch that? Like I say, you need uncertainty of outcome.
It gets said often enough, but look at the NFL. In the past 20 years, 21 of American Football’s 32 teams have reached the Super Bowl. Only a third of their franchises haven’t been all the way to the season’s climax in two decades.
In that time, they’ve had 13 different winners. Why? Because they have a completely equal distribution of wealth. They have salary caps and a draft system that caters for the most needy.
They are owned by some of the richest men in the world but they are capitalists who understand the need for socialism
in sport. That a lack of competition is ultimately bad for business.
Even Peter Lawwell acknowledged that recently. Although he called it a ‘perceived lack of competition’ as if it wasn’t actually real and wasn’t actually a problem.
And he didn’t suggest doing anything about it, like redistributing the prize money or TV money more evenly.
He’ll know how the rest of us feel when he turns his head up the way towards Europe, though, and sees England, Spain and Germany’s big boys disappearing into the distance in a cloud of Euros.
The problem for football is that if Celtic have to learn to accept THEIR place in football’s hierarchy, and are incapable of bridging the void, same as the likes of Aberdeen and Dundee United are
incapable of bridging the void up to them domestically, where does it leave us?
Where does it leave any of the supposedly big teams from Portugal, Greece, Holland, Belgium, even Italy?
UEFA may be doing a jig of joy at their dream last eight but they should be careful what they wish for. Inevitability isn’t good for the game. At any level.
EVERYONE from seventh down in the Scottish Premiership is looking over their shoulder.
And everyone from seventh, maybe even eighth, up is still in with a shout of promotion from the Championship.
Who’d have thought with only eight games left that play-offs could have brought such thrills and spills to the top two divisions?
Oh, that’s right – everyone for the past 20 years except the SPL. Just mentioning it before Neil Doncaster starts trying to take credit for it...
FOR those having a go at Stephen Thompson for not complaining at the time about the SFA decision to award the semis and final of the Scottish Cup to grounds before knowing who’d be playing.
He did. It’s there in black and white on October 31.
He said: “I am surprised at the decision being made so much in advance. You would hope they could have tried to maintain the concept of neutrality.”
So how the SFA are the only ones who didn’t see a week like we’ve just had coming is anyone’s guess.