“Not in the Face!”: UEFA Concedes More UCL Ground to Europe’s Elite

I genuinely believe that you could have Christopher Walken perform a rendition of Black Lace’s “Agadoo”, complete with actions and he could still make it seem menacing.  Similarly, you could have any messenger, using any tone, style, demeanor or medium, say the words “Super League” to a UEFA executive and they’d immediately be overcome with anxiety, nausea, sweating, palpitations and stomach cramps.  It’s like sunlight to Nosferatu.

If you had Walken say it to them, your wish would probably be their command.

This has become a bit of a cyclical event.  UEFA and its plethora o’ mighty leagues, clubs and players, is ticking along nicely, when somewhere in the media, somebody with loose connections to some filthy rich former G14 member, will muse in chin-stroking contemplation about how great  things are in European football and what a wonderful tournament [insert mega club here]  has made the UCL into.

“Wouldn’t it be cool if these clubs had guaranteed games together, every season?” he’ll casually speculate, as the first pimples of perspiration form along the UEFA execs hairline.

The next thing you know, a Florentino Perez or Charlie Stiliano is quoted in news outlets, saying that a European Super League, featuring the continent’s best clubs, is certainly something to think about.

It’s a perpetual threat.  A powerful stick.  A metaphorical anvil hovering over UEFA’s head.  It’s a formidable piece of leverage the biggest clubs, with their wealth and commercial power, keep stored in their back pockets.

UEFA can’t really be seen to sanction something as exclusive and divisive as this.  For one, it would have incredible repercussions for the region’s domestic leagues – potentially catastrophic even.

On top of that, such an entity would have enough collective pull that UEFA could be marginalized to the point of becoming glorified “yes” men.

As a result, the next step of the routine is a few rounds of negotiation, before the whole thing ends with a series of compromises and concessions that typically gives the big guns easier access to the Champions League and a bigger slice of the financial pie.

UEFA will of course paint it as a triumphant and relevant update to its premier tournament and drop words like “solidarity” and “sportsmanship” in an insincere round of bullshit bingo.

Today we saw the outcome of the latest rendition of this pretentious political dance.  Starting in 2018, the top four leagues will see its top four teams, qualify directly to the UCL proper.

Club ranking will also no longer be tied to the nation’s coefficient, just to the team’s own five year average.

Leagues that have produced winners previously will receive additional bonuses to their coefficient, weighted in favour of the more recent victories.

The Market Pool share will decrease (good), though apparently the individual club coefficients will be a factor in distribution, so it looks like the big clubs are going to keep getting a chunkier slice than others.  Prize money will apparently be significantly increased in general.

So the bottom line here is that as usual, UEFA has acquiesced to giving it’s grandest names yet more opportunity to perpetuate their positions at the top of the pile.

Personally, I’d be intrigued to see what would happen if UEFA simply called their bluff.  You see, as sexy and lucrative a concept as a Pan-European MegaLeague, choc-full of the biggest clubs and strongest players may be, I’m not convinced it would actually serve the Elite as well as the status quo.

Consider that these clubs have cache built on a history of tremendous and ongoing success.  There are going to be winners and losers among clubs that are not used to the latter.

I doubt very much whether clubs that have frequently solidified their destiny via their ample resources, would suddenly implement parity measures. Over a century of professional football has shown that over time, “haves” and “have-nots” tend to emerge.  Are Juventus or Arsenal going to be keen on becoming the glamour league’s mid-tablers?

As it stands now, these clubs get to rule the roost at home and duke it out with the other powerhouses via European competition, enjoying the revenues, resources and profile that come with it all.

Sure, a Super League would likely bring a commercial boom to its participants but it’s not quite as cushy as being perenial title contenders.

Then there’s the aforementioned fallout, debacle and chaotic shake-up that could result.  Breaking away and forming a Super League would be a risk and a gamble. Nonetheless, with leagues growing more global and clubs extending their reaches well beyond not just their national border but across to other continents, it certainly seems a viable product:but as long as the UCL does for them what they want it to, it’s an almighty hassle and potentially dangerous choice to open that proverbial can of worms.

That’s the situation really: there’s just enough weight behind the notion of a Super League to motivate UEFA to try to keep its serious consideration at bay.  As long as that exists, the Elite clubs will continue to hold it as an option, so they can take full advantage of the leverage.

For the most part though, it is largely a pipe-dream that will only truly be considered when clubs feel that their domestic leagues and continental confederation are no longer serving their best interests.  As long as the current dynamic remains, so too will the European Super League’s role as nothing more than a very substantial bargaining chip.

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