On Friday, UEFA announced that Euro 2020 will be contested in thirteen host cities based in any of the fifty-three eligible member countries spanning over 4,000 km and four time zones. They had previously disregarded the excellent 16-team Euro tournament in favour of a messy 24-team format. A tournament that until last year consisted of the perfect refinement in both quality and quantity is descending into a nightmare for teams and fans alike.
But UEFA have a habit of infuriating logical thinkers by needlessly tinkering with competitions like an addiction. When coming under criticism for accommodating an exhaustive group stage in the Champions League, they briefly altered the arrangement to staging two lengthy group stages. They flirted with a 5-team group stage in the Europa League with each side playing each other once, blissfully unaware that home advantage might be an issue.
Competition, entertainment and the health of the game are mere afterthoughts to UEFA, fleetingly considering them after gorging on money-making arrangements and extensions, driven by self-interest. They don’t want to ruffle the feathers of Europe’s established elite, as the governing body possesses an irrational fear that they will break away to form their own league. Pacifying demands from the rich few will always rank higher than providing the ordinary fan with what they desire.
Employing the mechanisms of increased qualifying rounds and more stringent seeding keeps upstarts in their place and maintains the European hierarchy. Last year’s national champions such as Montpellier, Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund were thrown in with the lions and Dortmund’s heroics aside, have been kept at arm’s length.
The governing body have never considered that ‘less is more’ as clubs stumbling in 7th in the top domestic leagues are granted access to European competition. The unrestrained and breakneck enlargement of the Champions League bloated all European competition.
The once prestigious and illustrious UEFA Cup has descended into the farcical Europa League, so drawn out that it’s now warped wreckage on the roadside, something we slow down and wince at before accelerating away frantically.
A drama-filled 90 minutes determining a team’s exaltation or embarrassment is when football reaches its spine-tingling peak. Tournament extension favours quantity at the expense of quality, allowing big teams the wriggle-room to lose a match or two and still progress.
Those heading UEFA want to ensure they remain in a cushy job and the status quo retain their stranglehold over their minions. Everyone’s a winner! Apart from most clubs, the sport’s global fan base and most sobering of all, the game itself.