European Football – A Revamp, Colin McRae & A New Darts Season

The UEFA Vodafone Heineken Sony PlayStation 3 Champions League starts tonight. Of course ‘champions’ doesn’t mean ‘champions’, it means teams that finished quite near the top of their league, if not top itself. Why does a competition need so many sponsors? There are probably more than the three I’ve mentioned up there. At least it shows where a lot of the money’s coming from – it also shows where a lot of the tickets are going but that’s been going on for years.

The Champions League is the most watched club football competition on the planet, I believe, and it invariably throws up a good game every week it’s on. I’m a fan of the competition despite it being completely detrimental to the other European club competitions. The Cup Winners’ Cup has already met it’s demise and the UEFA cup will surely follow as the money juggernaut that is the Champions League rolls on.

The Champions League Trophy
The problem with how it’s affected things is shown in the winners of the competition over the past 8 years. Here’s what I mean:

2007: AC Milan – Finished 4th in Serie A
2006: Barcelona – Finished 1st in La Liga
2005: Liverpool – Finished 5th in Premiership
2004: FC Porto – Finished 1st in Portuguese Liga
2003: AC Milan – Finished 3rd in Serie A
2002: Real Madrid – Finished 3rd in La Liga
2001: Bayern Munich – Finished 1st in 1.Bundesliga (losing 9 games from 34)
2000: Real Madrid – Finished 5th in La Liga

Over 8 seasons, only 3 teams have won both the Champions League and their own domestic league in the same season. Not good for what is supposedly the best team in Europe at that point.

Only 4 times in this period has a club won their domestic league one season, then the Champions League the next. Really then, in 2000, 2003, 2005 and 2007, the club that won it shouldn’t have been there (as was the case with Manchester United in 1999).

This shows me that there’s life in the UEFA cup yet, if it’s managed properly.

This is why the Champions League needs cutting down to just the Champions of each country, maybe two from stronger nations. The 4-team group things works well and brings money and fans in so that can stay but get rid of the 3rd place team jumping ship to the UEFA cup.

The UEFA Cup
The UEFA cup needs the next one or two clubs and the domestic cup winners in a straight 2 leg knockout format. None of these soppy 5 team leagues where if you play a team at home you don’t play them away and vice versa.

The winner of the Champions League get re-entered for the next season no matter their domestic league position. the UEFA cup winners get a Champions League spot too. Sound fair to you?

This way you cut down on meaningless games, get rid of the Inter Toto (is that still going actually?) and get to games where you have the very very best from one country playing against the very very best from another which is what it should all be about.

The UEFA cup will have extra spice. An increase in team quality and a more exciting knockout format. Not our 7th placed team playing against the 3rd placed team from Finland, for example, with Channel 5 only deciding to show it half an hour before kick off because they’ve got nothing better to show.

We all know it’s down to profiteering so none of this will happen. In fact it will expand and the quality will get worse until it’s tiresome I imagine.

As I said earlier though, I’m a fan of the competition. It’s not gone quite too far yet so enjoy the games from the next 2 days. I hope I’ve given you something to think about when it gets a bit dull though 🙂

R.I.P. Colin McRae, by the way. A fearless rally driver and the ultimate competitor. He will be sadly missed by all of us who enjoy the sport of rallying.

The entrance to The Vineyard
Added on Wednesday…
Darts Update:
First game of the winter season and we were away at a place the likes of which I’ve never seen before. It’s called ‘The Vineyard’. It was literally a hut with two rooms on the side of an overgrown hill. They sold beer in cans, had 3 draught beers on, all of which were bitter, and didn’t let women in until a couple of years ago. They had a ghetto blaster with a Beatles CD on for entertainment and teletext on the little TV to follow the football.

Anyway, enough of my observations. I won 2-0 and the team won 3-2. I played better than I have done in ages so was very pleased. Apart from one 26 I threw, every score was at least 60 – apart from my darts at doubles which were both hit first time.

Summary:
Position: 4 (3 is now a pairs match)
My Result: 2-0 win (it’s only best of 3 in this division)
Team Result: 3-2 win

Scott.

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