I'm not sure whether it was the ongoing Team GB saga, FIFA's continual distaste for all things English or a general boredom sparked by a dead football summer, but this week my mind drifted back to a bar room conversation that I had a few years back with a couple of UEFA’s finest young executives.
The conversation had begun as a rather pleasant and polite exchange about who held the balance of power in European football - UEFA or the then G14 group of big clubs. At the time the G14 clubs believed that UEFA was taking a too great a reward for the level of their contribution, stating;
“G14 favours the model of exploitation of rights that maximises the revenue for participating clubs," it states. "Redistribution of wealth in case of central marketing needs to keep in consideration the proportional contribution of all those involved”.
In short, give us more money or we will form a breakaway league of our own and cut you out all together. UEFA rebuffed their position and were quick to point out that any National Association that sanctioned its clubs participation in a breakaway league would automatically be banned from International competition. This was UEFA’s 'big stick' - stay within the established family or be on the outside at all levels of the game (sound familiar?).
Now, since I find bullying an abhorrent action, this attitude really got me riled. So I began thinking of how to combat UEFA’s ultimate sanction. My solution is neither entirely new nor revolutionary, but it would certainly kick UEFA were it hurts most and without doubt bring them to the bargaining table in a slightly more conciliatory mood.
The answer to the bullying threats would be the creation of a new biennial competition played between the Leagues themselves; let’s call it the European League Championship (ELC). My vision of the ELC is an eight team competition consisting of seven of the top Leagues in Europe plus a ‘Rest of’ team. Initially The EPL, La Liga, Series A and the Bundeliga would have permanent places in the tournament with the other places awarded on a discretionary basis.
In commercial terms the idea certainly makes sense. There is a long list of corporates who would jump at the chance of sponsoring the event. Just think of all the competitors of the current Olympic partners and World Cup sponsors who would relish the chance to break into the top tier of world sport. In broadcast terms, the ELC would not be on the list of ‘Crown Jewels’ events and so would be open to bidding by all the satellite stations throughout Europe. The final piece of the jigsaw would be the redistribution of the money. Simply it would all go back to the clubs of the participating leagues. I would suggest the 50% of each country’s total would be split evenly between all the clubs in the league, with the other being allocated in proportion to the clubs supplying the players.
This just leaves the ‘so what’ or ‘who cares’ factor! Would the ELC generate interest? I for one think it would. I am not an expert on the European Leagues, but would suggest that teams made up of the best or Real and Barca or Inter, AC, Roma and Juve would provide a most interesting spectacle. As for the English Premier League, well I think that;
Cech, Sagna, Vidic, Kompany, Cole, Bale, Fabregas, Yaya Toure, Rooney, Tevez and van Persie
would be plenty enough to keep me interested during the long dry summer drought.