Well, we've just reached the end of one of the greatest European Championships of all time. And what have UEFA's member countries voted to do: you've guessed it- radically change the format. The Mail on Sunday reports:
"England will have no excuse in future if they repeat their failure to qualify for Euro 2008 after a proposal to extend the European Championship from 16 to 24 teams by 2016 won unanimous approval from UEFA's 53 member countries yesterday. SFA chief executive Gordon Smith said: "We just missed this tournament behind Italy and France but under the proposed new regulations we would have qualified". UEFA president Michel Platini said: "I'm not worried about increasing the number of teams. Countries like England have the quality to take part."
Well, extending the number of teams playing in the European Championship finals may well give England and Scotland a greater chance of qualification, but it's still a lousy idea. A 24-team tournament would mean six groups of four teams, with presumably the last sixteen being made up of the twelve first and second placed teams, together with the four third placed teams with the best record. In other words we'd play two weeks of group matches just to eliminate eight teams. Such a system would encourage negative, defensive football, as teams would probably be able to qualify for the knockout stages with three draws.
Much of the excitement of the final games in the group matches (just think Czech Republic v Turkey) would be lost.
A 24-team tournament would undoubtedly mean a lowering of quality- as well as devaluing the European Championship qualifiers.
It's quite clear that once again, financial -and not sporting considerations are being put first. The more teams in the tournament, the more matches, the more advertising revenue- and the richer everyone gets- so the argument goes. But a 24-team tournament, involving several mediocre teams, is much more likely to be a bore for viewers than a 16-team one, restricted to Europe's best.
The truth is that there is nothing wrong with the current European Championship format, as the last four weeks have shown. To quote a very old adage, which is ignored far too often in these money obsessed times: If it ain't broke, why fix it?