Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Is the Group Stage of the Champions League merely a money spinner?

The 2010/11 Uefa Champions League will get underway tonight and but for a couple of groups it all looks rather predictable. Groups A and G appear to be the only ones that should sustain interest throughout. The re-vamping of the tournament to knock out a few years ago has made the later stages incredibly exciting and those fixtures have made this competition the most prestigious in world football.

For many of the clubs involved the group stage offers them the chance to balance the books and dream of ties against Barcelona, Inter Milan or Manchester United. However, in reality the big teams almost always qualify and earn a small fortune in the process. Manchester United have earned around £180 million in the last 7 years from playing in Europe’s elite competition, even if you lose every game in the group you earn £8.6 million. This is vital for some of the smaller clubs across Europe but surely this ensures that the top clubs get richer and thus secure their futures in the competition.

One concerning feature of the new Champions League is that there is no real incentive for winning your own Domestic League. It is a shame when clubs such as Arsenal and Valencia commence the season not aiming to win the title but merely to finish in the top 4; surely sport is about winning, not aiming to be the 3rd best loser?

It is without doubt the most exciting competition in world football after Christmas when the knock out stages commence but Uefa need to find a way of livening up the initial phase. Would it be possible for the league winners of the top ranked countries to enter the tournament after Christmas? It would be an incentive but many of these teams would complain about the loss of revenue.

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