Learning from other sports is often a good exercise. I recently discussed how football could use a golf type handicap system to make the UEFA’s Financial Fair Play easier to apply for some of Europe’s most debt driven clubs. Football could also learn from tennis. I had already referred to this sport when debating on the current World Cup 1st round group stage which is contrary to the spirit of any cup type competition. The same applies to the Champions and Europa Leagues. If you are not backed up financially to double most positions on the pitch, your chances of winning these Cups is close to nil. The last time a less “prestigious” club won the Champions League was Porto back in 2003/04 and before that Dortmund in 1996/97. The first round group stage acts like a powerful filter to eliminate the less wealthy smaller teams. Luckily there are exceptions to this rule such as Apoel Nicosia this year.
With a knockout stage from the start like in tennis tournaments, the excitement of the potential elimination of a star club by an underdog is introduced back into the competition just as it was when it was called the European Champions Clubs’ Cup. I’m also in favor of just having one representative per country for the Champions League. Sounds logical for a Cup with that name right? The damn tv rights have pushed for up to 4 clubs from the most powerful championships participating in the Champions League thus paving the way to the group stage. However, the dismal quality of most of these first round games has started to erode the audiences of some of the leading European tv channels! I am ready to bet that this trend will continue as long as the UEFA doesn’t revert back to the original knockout system.
Maracanazos like to think that anything is possible!