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Monday, June 30, 2008

A Very Bad Idea

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?


MCSB said...

I have to say that my first reaction was why change it? But I can understand the arguement for change. Europe has expanded in recent years, there is a biggger pool of countries that could qualify. Lets not kid oursleves though,that even if the championships were expanded, England still wouldnt qualify. The current team are overpaid, overated and underworked. I have never been more disillusioned with English football than right now.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to disagree, but anything that increases the chances of Belarus qualifying for anything is fine by me!

Anonymous said...

Though football completely defeats my intelligence (I leave it to my much smarter brother), I cannot help wondering why there is only one country in Europe that gets to field four teams, namely the UK, none of whom appear to qualify:)

Though I think a smaller tournament a good idea, as it occupies less space, I am wholly in favour of Belarus always qualifying (having a partner from thence who actually likes football)!!!

Neil Clark said...

I think we have reached consensus here about the desirability of Belarus qualifying for European Championships, but I'd prefer them to do it in a 16 team tournament rather than a 24 team one!
mcsb: agreed, I am disillusioned with English football too.

Anonymous said...

It almost goes without saying that greed is the underlying reason for expanding the competition to 24 teams. But that's not to say there are not very valid sporting reasons for increasing the number of teams competing; in particular that fact that it would probably increase the number of upsets.