The recent weeks have been an unsettling time for football managers, players, and supporters alike. First the Board of West Bromwich Albion decided that Steve Clark was not taking their club where they would like, and then the joke club in N17 decided that although he had the best win percentage of any previous Premier League manager for Spuds, and sitting 7th in the league and 5 points off the top 4, it was time for AVB to leave. I am no fan of AVB but you have to question the sense of the Board for removing him.
This season for the first in a long time there is an argument to say four of seven teams could make the Champions League spots, of those seven teams two are financially doped and therefore can demand qualification from their managers, if Everton, Liverpool or Spurs say to their managers that the minimum requirement is Champions League qualification they may as well give up before the season starts.
There is also the vicious cycle of players wages, represented here:
This becomes worse when we start talking about Champions League Money, and therefore clubs with ambitions to be in the Champions League need to gamble on wages over and above the normal cycle. This is why Champions League money is so important, UEFA by their promotion of the Champions League have left themselves with a dead duck of a competition called the Europa League which does not generate the TV rights that the Champions League does, they have extended the pool of clubs able to enter the Champions League to strengthen their premier competition but it has been at the expense of their other competitions.
A lot of the criticism of the current situation of a Big 4 of Premier League Clubs is seen by many fans as a result of the Premier League full stop, so with this in mind I went off and did a bit of a review of the Top 4 finishes going back 42 years, 21 post Premier League seasons and 21 pre Premier League seasons. To some extent what I found was a bit of a surprise.
Prior to the Premier League era 19 different teams finished in the top four positions, during the Premier League Era only 13 different teams have finished in the top four. Perhaps not as stark as I was expecting, so i added a final criteria, top four finishes since the Champions League qualification became four teams from the Premier League, only 8 different teams.
|No of Top 4 Finishes||Pre PL||PL Era||Top 4 CL|
|11 or more||1||4||2|
As you can see the real evil has been that Champions League qualification. I’m sure a similar study of other European Leagues would provide a similar result.
On top of this we have the ability of players to move around Europe, many moons ago a Munich side would have been 90% German, an English side 70% English (except Liverpool), etc. Now we are lucky if we see 50% of players from the country of the team. This in itself is not necessarily the worst thing about modern football but it means that UEFAs premier competition is only going to be won by the Leagues with the biggest resources to attract players from all across Europe especially those whose teams used to be European greats but cannot afford to compete with the bigger clubs.
So what can be done to change this? To make Managers jobs more secure to allow clubs to really build again without fear of losing out on the pot of gold that is the Champions League and to make the domestic leagues more competitive?
For me I would like to see a total overhaul of European Competition. And in a three step process.
1) Re introduce the European Cup Winners Cup, as a straight knock out competition. Winners or Runners Up of the domestic competition only.
2) Reduce the places in the Champions League to 2 spots for each country.
3) Apply the coefficients for the Europa League for each country so we may have four teams in it.
What would this do? In my opinion it would increase the quality of the Europa League and hence increase the prize money and rights on offer. The Europa League would also feature teams that are traditionally big European clubs. This would probably also reduce the money on offer in the Champions League but that may be no bad thing as it will reduce the need of so many clubs to retain Champions League status.
One thing is for certain the gravy train will not last forever, the money BT have paid to secure Champions League rights indicates that the gap will only widen in the future. This cannot be a good thing for domestic football and the managers that work in it as the task becomes more impossible.
Gooner in Exile