I’m a big football fan. But I just can’t make myself care about the Europa League. I don’t watch any of the matches, apart from the final and maybe the semis — and even then, I’m not that bothered. Case in point: I forgot the final was on yesterday, so missed it.
I just don’t see the point of the tournament.
Back when I was a kid, European football made sense.
- All the Champions of the various nations’ leagues would play each other in the European Champions’ Cup.
- All the Champions of the various nations’ cups would play each other in the European Cup Winners Cup.
- And all the really excellent also-rans would play in the UEFA Cup.
All three competitions had their own niche. The three worked together well conceptually. And all three were exciting in their own ways.
But I don’t just get the point anymore.
Sure, the winner of the Champions League is the best team in Europe — whether or not they won their own nation’s league. But what are the Europa League winners the champions of, exactly? The not-quite-as-good-as-the-also-rans?
More to the point: the Europa League is a bloated pseudo-epic — like all the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels. The tournament just goes on forever, pointlessly.
It’s clear that European football needs reforming. But how?
A return to the old days clearly isn’t going to happen (national champions to the European Cup, all the other best teams to the UEFA Cup/Europa League). And what’s more, I wouldn’t want it to — not least ‘cos it would mean Arsenal would never get into the Champions League again! But actually, despite being a bit bloated, and a flagrant misnomer!, I actually rather like the modern Champions League.
I make two simple proposals which I think would fix European football.
1. Change the Europa League to the “Europa Challenge Cup”
It would be a pure knock-out tournament. The model would be the FA cup. So, yeah, the better teams would enter the tourney in later stages (think the 3rd Round entrance of Premier League teams in the FA Cup). But, just like the FA Cup, any team could otherwise be drawn against any other team — there would be no seedings.
Unlike the FA Cup, though, I think a two-leg format might be best, except for the final — and possibly the semis.
AND ABSOLUTELY NO CHAMPIONS LEAGUE REJECTS WOULD BE ALLOWED TO JOIN! (currently, clubs that finish third in the group stage of the Champions’ League enter into the Europa League).
Also, this set up would make conceptual sense: every nation has its league tournament and its league tournament; we would now have a Europe-wide league tourney and a Europe-wide cup one.
2. The European Super League: Merge the Two Tourneys
The more radical option: expand the Champs league further by scrapping the Europa League.
Instead of European spots being divvied up between the two competitions, all European qualifying teams go through to the same tournament.
What do you reckon?
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© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry