Friday, September 26, 2008

UEFA Cup rename? Nice try, but...

The UEFA Cup and the Carling Cup have a lot in common. None of the so-called "top teams" give two hoots about either competition, yet, if they wanted to, they could win either without breaking much of a sweat.

UEFA know this. They know the Champions League is the only marketable European club competition. Sure, the UEFA Cup may be good enough for the likes of Aston Villa, but such clubs do not have genuine worldwide appeal. Heck, they don't even have continent-wide appeal!

But European football's governing body - who may or may not clash with FIFA one day as the power-balance continues to shift - are as keen as ever to make cash out of any version of the game they can, whether it be the Champions League final, a UEFA Cup qualifier, or two bunches of kids playing with jumpers for goalposts down the local park.

So it should come as no surprise they have decided to make some changes to the tournament, changes which will come into effect next season. The most amusing, surely, is the name change. Let's have a drum roll, orchestra:

The UEFA Cup will be known as the...Uefa Europa League.

Wow. Just wow. And, given the state of the current global economy, I daren't think how much money they paid the marketing-men to come up with that name. UEFA Europa League? It sounds like what it is - a cheap and cheerful, budget, light, no-frills, Tesco Value version of the Champions League.

More material changes include switching the format to a 48 team, 12 groups of four stage with each team in each group playing each other home and away, and the top-24 and the eight third-placed Champions League group teams entering a knock-out stage. If that plan took more than 10 minutes to put together, I'd be amazed!

A statement on the Uefa website read: "The new name and logo will help underline the tournament's special character and unique sporting appeal. Uefa's ambition in making these changes is to rejuvenate the competition in the light of the new European football landscape, which has shifted significantly with the continued success of the Champions League, so that the Uefa Europa League can establish itself as a major competition."

Good luck with that!