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Missed this article on Monday but someone sent me the link. Hard to argue against some of the points made.




Bold plan for Europe

Gabriele Marcotti

When FC Porto, led by Jos�© Mourinho, won the Champions League three years ago, it was an aberration on a scale we may not fully appreciate for some time. In the past 15 years, only two clubs from outside Europeâ��s five biggest leagues have reached the final, Porto and Ajax. In the


If anything, the gap has grown this year. Europeââ?¬â?¢s ââ?¬Å?Big Fiveââ?¬Â ââ?¬â? Germany, France, England, Italy and Spain ââ?¬â? are likely to supply 13 of the 16 clubs who will qualify from the Champions League group stage. And the figure might have been higher if group F had featured more than one ââ?¬Å?Big Fiveââ?¬Â club, Manchester United.



Uefa�s brief is to safeguard and promote the sport within Europe. Yet its premier competition has effectively become a closed shop, limited to clubs from five nations and the 300 million or so people who live there.


There are two main reasons why this is not good for the game. The first is that some of Europe�s great historic clubs, many of them European Cup winners, such as Ajax and Benfica, are drifting towards obscurity. The fact that teams such as AS Roma, Valencia or Arsenal � with no European Cups between them � are considered bigger and more attractive than past ten years, only four of the 40 semi-finalists have been such outsiders. And in the past five seasons only one of them has reached the quarter-finals. every team outside the Big Five should make us wonder whether the European game is not losing part of its heritage.


The second reason is the kind that Uefa and the clubs are most sensitive to: it is financial. Uefa goes to each country and sells the competition�s rights to that nation�s television companies. Broadcasters care primarily about ratings, so they want to see as many clubs from their own nation advance as far as possible.


If you are a broadcaster from outside the Big Five, you will have realised that the chances of a team from your nation making it far in the competition are slim, so next time Uefa tries to sell its Champions League rights, you may as well bid less than before.


So how can the situation change? The clubs outside the Big Five need to improve to make the Champions League experience less of a foregone conclusion. That means improving the standard of competition they face, while helping them to generate more revenue. That is where regional leagues come in.


In 2001, Harry van Raaij, the former chairman of PSV Eindhoven, launched his proposal for an Atlantic League, which would include the best clubs in the Netherlands, Belgium, Scotland and Portugal. These clubs would break away from their domestic leagues and play each other instead (domestic cup competitions would continue as normal).


Van Raaij�s argument was compelling. First, the standard of competition for clubs within the Atlantic League would rise, making the teams better and helping them to attract better players, leading to a virtuous cycle that would further improve the quality of the league.


The Atlantic League would then be able to secure a comparable television contract to those enjoyed by the Big Five. From an advertisersâ�� perspective, it would represent a television market of more than 40 million, with an aggregate national GDP of �£672.9 billion. The average attendance of a 16-club Atlantic League would be in excess of 30,000 per game â�� more than La Liga, Serie A and Ligue 1. Suddenly, the Big Five would become six.


Why stop there? Scandinavian nations are experimenting with the Royal League, which kicked off last week, with clubs from Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Throw in Finland and there would be a Scandinavian League.


While you are at it, introduce the regional leagues across Europe. How about a Balkan League, with Greece, Turkey, Croatia and Serbia? A tough sell politically, but what better way than sport to begin to heal old wounds? An Alps/Danube League could include Switzerland, Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic. And an Oriental League would be made up of Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria and Poland.


Champions League places would have to be reassessed, but Uefa wants none of it. The governing body stresses the importance of domestic leagues and fears that regional leagues could foreshadow the feared independent breakaway European Superleague. But, in fact, it would act as a deterrent. Making clubs outside the Big Five stronger would help to diffuse power throughout Europe, making it more difficult for the big boys in England, Spain and Italy to lord it. It makes financial sense for everyone, too.


The good thing is that Uefa elections are around the corner. At least one candidate promises new ideas. This would be one of them. Michel Platini, are you listening? This could be your legacy to the game.




League Population, GDP, Ave attendance


Oriental 114.8m, �£610bn, 8,941

Alps and Danube 35.8m, �£448bn, 8,283

Balkan 98.6m, �£517bn, 14,402

Atlantic 42.3m, �£672.9bn, 30,469

Scandinavian 24.4m, �£429.8bn, 12,111




League Population GDP Ave attendance


Spain 44.4m, �£543bn, 29,205

England 50.4m, �£950bn, 34,274

Italy 58.7m, �£880bn, 19,405

Germany 82.4m, �£1,331bn, 38,994

France 63.5m, �£966bn, 21,832



Scandinavian League


United Tampere (Finland) HJK Helsinki (Finland) Haka Valkeakoski (Finland) TPS Turku (Finland) FC Copenhagen (Denmark) FC Midtjylland (Denmark) Brondby (Denmark) Aalborg (Denmark) Elfsborg (Sweden) AIK (Sweden) Malm�¶ (Sweden) Djurgardens (Sweden) Rosenborg (Norway) Brann (Norway) Valerenga (Norway) Viking Stavanger (Norway)


Atlantic League


Celtic (Scotland) Rangers (Scotland) Hearts (Scotland) Aberdeen (Scotland) FC Porto (Portugal) Sporting Lisbon (Portugal) Benfica (Portugal) Braga (Portugal) Anderlecht (Belgium) Genk (Belgium) FC Bruges (Belgium) Standard Li�¨ge (Belgium) Ajax (Netherlands) PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands) Feyenoord (Netherlands) Heerenveen (Netherlands)


Balkan League


Panathinaikos (Greece) AEK Athens (Greece) Olympiacos (Greece) Aris Salonika (Greece) Fenerbah�§e (Turkey) Galatasaray (Turkey) Besiktas (Turkey) Trabzonspor (Turkey) Dynamo Zagreb (Croatia) Hajduk Split (Croatia) NK Zagreb (Croatia) NK Osijek (Croatia) Partizan Beograd (Serbia) Vojvodia (Serbia) Crvena Zvedza (Serbia) FC Smederevo (Serbia)


Oriental League


Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine) Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine) Dnipro (Ukraine) Karpaty Lvov (Ukraine) Belchatow (Poland) Wisla Krakow (Poland) Legia Warsaw (Poland) Lech Poznan (Poland) Dynamo Bucharest (Romania) Steaua Bucharest (Romania) Universitatea Craiova (Romania) Timisoara (Romania) Levski Sofia (Bulgaria) CSKA Sofia (Bulgaria) Liteks Lovech (Bulgaria) Botev Plovdiv (Bulgaria)


Alps/Danube League


Rapid Vienna (Austria) Red Bull Salzburg (Austria) Austria Vienna (Austria) Sturm Graz (Austria) Young Boys Berne (Switzerland) FC Basle (Switzerland) FC Zurich (Switzerland) Grasshoppers (Switzerland) Sparta Prague (Czech Rep) Slovan Liberec (Czech Rep) Slavia Prague (Czech Rep) Banik Ostrava (Czech Rep) Debrecen�© (Hungary) MTK Budapest (Hungary) Zalaegerszeg (Hungary) Ujpest (Hungary)

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i`m against an atlantic league.


rangers are bigger than anything in that league and although it may not seem like it at the moment, i think rangers are heading in the right direction and it won`t be long until they join the english leagues.


for me thats where rangers will start to become the world force they should be!


playing the likes of belgian and potugese champions won`t further them any more than where they are right now!

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Don't think we'll ever be able to join the EPL as it would require turkey's voting for Christmas and if it doesn't happen soon we won't be able to compete anyway as we'll be financial minnows.


The more the big 5 increase their financial differential with the rest the more pressure there will be for those types of multinational leagues.


I'm all for it although I'd like 5 from each country to make 20 teams which would help keep Scottish football alive - think about it, 5 rich teams instead of 2, with them cherry picking from the Scottish league. A voluntary quota of players trained in the home country (regardless of nationality) would help keep things balanced.


Two teams joining the EPL would just kill Scottish football and we'd end up being just a couple of northern English teams full of players from other EPL clubs.


Thing is we need it to happen, very soon, before it's too late to compete.

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I see what your saying Calscot and the only reason against the OF joining the EPL from my opinion is the national team would suffer the most.


But if it didnt then i couldnt care less about the other SPL sides. They all show the OF (especially us) hatred, but when it comes to playing us 4 times a season they NEED us.


But I like the idea of an Atlantic league with 5 from each country.


BTW on a side note, should Cardiff get promotion this season I'll be interested to see if any of the EPL sides complain that a Welsh side shouldnt be there.

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I see what your saying Calscot and the only reason against the OF joining the EPL from my opinion is the national team would suffer the most.


It would mean very little money would go to the SPL as everyone would be watching the EPL instead.


But if it didnt then i couldnt care less about the other SPL sides. They all show the OF (especially us) hatred, but when it comes to playing us 4 times a season they NEED us.


You could say the same about Rangers fans hating Celtic yet we still NEED them, so it's a bit of pot, kettly and black. I care about the Scottish league although I care about Rangers first. I realise that we are such a small country that we need to put most of our resources into two pots to compete with the rest of Europe. But this is a way of having 4 or 5 pots albeit with the OF still having more.


But this way the like of Hearts, Hibs and Aberdeen could possibly start to compete with the likes of Portsmouth, Wigan, Fulham, Charlton, Reading, Bolton, Sheffield Utd etc and maybe do a Middlesburgh or Alkmaar and have a good UEFA run.


But I like the idea of an Atlantic league with 5 from each country.


5 is better as it brings more games - so more money, more fans and allows three Scottish also-rans a chance to make it big. 5 teams is half the old SPL and with relegation and promotion would benefit a reasonable number of clubs.


BTW on a side note, should Cardiff get promotion this season I'll be interested to see if any of the EPL sides complain that a Welsh side shouldnt be there.


I think they will, but having come up from the old 4th division, they will have deserved it. I think it could make Cardiff a huge club as they could get a lot of support in Wales being the only club in the EPL. Add that to mid-table Sky millions for a couple of years and they will be competing in the top half of the table.


Remember they have half the population of Glasgow, but also half the big teams and so all thing being equal could be as big as the OF. The innequality I suppose comes from the Welsh seeing Rugby as the national sport.


They are building a �£100M new stadium which holds 30,000 seats but you can't help wonder why they don't just move to the Millenium stadium which would give them huge potential in the EPL although I suppose they'd start playing to less than half a stadium full...

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