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Alternative Champions League

The Champions League group stage began in earnest a few weeks ago and the predictable merry go round maintained it’s course, as it will do until mid December. Long gone are the days of European Cup dramas early on in the competition. Some of the most exciting games in the history of the sport have been incited by the fear and the glory of a knockout round. Any shocks witnessed in the group stages are rendered insignificant by the smoothing process that occurs over the 6 games, as it should. This is sadly not the most exciting prospect for the armchair fan, where the best one can hope for is Chelsea to struggle to a 0-0 draw deep in the eastern bloc.

Lack of surprises has left many calling for a reinstatement of the old European cup format. A return to the 2 legged knockout ties could mean the possibility of banana skins being slipped on early in the campaign. At the moment we can comfortably predict 12/16 2nd round competitors already based on their accounts alone. Knockout rounds could introduce enough uncertainty to freshen up the early stages of the competition. I agree with this view in part, an alternative to the purely knockout format that could appease the accountants is a format that was used in the first couple of editions of the tournament.

Hold 2 knockout rounds between the same 32 entrants, qualification should remain the same, this can be seeded if the powers that be decide the big sides need to be given some insurance. This will reduce the competitors to 8, who will be drawn into 2 groups of 4. A single or double round robin will then be used to determine semi finalists.

Alternative Champions League format

Change of system?

The advantages of such a system are that the better teams will have to play against at least half of the best teams in Europe, thereby earning the right to be crowned champions of Europe. We are far more likely to be treated to matches between the 2 sides perceived to be the best on the continent. E.g. Spain vs Brazil

No plan would be complete without the obligatory flaws though. The fact is the current format generates an enormous amount of funding from TV rights across the continent. The funding has been distributed very well over the last few seasons and Monsieur Platini’s changes to entry for non champions has fostered further interest in eastern bloc minnows who have made it to the group stages. We may miss out on the likes of Cluj and Rubin Kazan making life tough for some.

It is also worth remembering that the past is often seen with the rose tinted glasses of nostalgia. There have been some magnificent finals over the history of the European cup and Champions League but there are also all the games which are lost in the darkest depths of dire uninteresting quasi-stalemates. There is no guarantee that if Barcelona were to face Man Utd, Bayern and Porto that the games would resemble anything vaguely exciting.

So maybe what I’m saying is that while the current format has its caveats, there are many more positives than negatives taking into account the current European footballing landscape.

  • Jamie Edwards

    The current system is a decent jack of all trades (entertainment, reach and legacy), better than being the ace of just a couple

  • Rocco

    Some stats from about group progression over the last 3 years:
    Seeds 1 and 2 have progressed 54% of the time.
    Seed 1 teams progress 96% of the time.
    Seed 2 teams progress 63% of the time.
    Seed 3 teams progress 29% of the time.
    Seed 4 teams progress 12.5% of the time.

    Probably suggest that the group stage is super predictable if the lowest ranked team is only making out of the group 5/48 times.

  • Sean-Paul Reilly

    Ive actually expanded the stats for the last 5 years:

    Teams seeded 1 qualified 95% of the time.

    Teams seeded 2 qualified 73% of the time.

    Teams seeded 3 qualified 23% of the time.

    Teams seeded 4 qualified 10% of the time.

    Seeds 1 and 2 qualified together 65% of the time.

  • Blurred

    I realise that UEFA are never going to go back to a straight knock-out competition as TV rights and special interests play too much of a part (or should that be ‘pay’ too much of a part) in the modern European Cup, but there is scope, I reckon, for improvement in terms of ‘competition’.

    My proposal would be to take the current 4 pots and bash them together, ending up with just two pots. Each group is constructed of 2 from each, meaning that those current Pot A clubs will still be in a group with at least 2 Pot C/D clubs as is the current case, however there is a chance that you get a group which has 2 Pot A sides in. This re-introduces much more of the element of the ‘luck of the draw’ that’s sadly missing from the current set-up.

    This looks after the ‘big’ clubs who are still assured a group with two much lesser sides in, however it also rewards those sides who qualify from the lower echelons of the game. Currently the chances of a Pot D club reaching the knock-out stages of the Champions League are all but non-existant, however these increase exponentially under the new system as they have the chance of being pitted against two Pot B sides, and anotherfrom Pot D, in a much more competitive group. It still provides them a stiff test, however.

    UEFA would be bound to retain the ‘country protection’ (although I think it personally has more scope if they removed it completely) however a compromise could be reached whereby this only applies in each Pot before the draw. Therefore Barca can’t be drawn in the same group as Real Madrid, but could be drawn in the same group as a lower Spanish team who weren’t in the top 16 sides in Europe. This would actually make for better football, I think. It’d add an edge to the group games that is currently lacking (in the vast majority).

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