Friday, September 26, 2008

Man City aim to expand and expand

Manchester City's new owners reportedly want to buy the area around City of Manchester Stadium and turn it into a hotel and leisure complex. Oh, and increase the capacity of the stadium to somewhere near that of Old Trafford.

It doesn't come as any surprise - once the initial surprise of litlte Man City becoming the richest club on the planet wore off - but it's clearly not a good thing, if only because it suggests the new Middle Eastern owners are in it for the long run. That may have been a reason to celebrate in the past, but now it means they will probably be around for long enough to help inspire the death of football.

According to the Daily Mail, "It is understood that new City owner, Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al Nayhan, is ready to pay Manchester City Council the £50million it would take to buy the ground that was built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games and is leased to the club for £2m-a-year. Sheik Mansour wants eventually to expand the 47,000-capacity stadium and take it towards the capacity of 78,000 currently enjoyed by neighbours Manchester United."

Of course, £50million is no money to them at all. The owners earn more than that in interest each day (making some very basic assumptons there, but even if that figure is incorrect, it's close enough). But they clearly are not going to be content with slowly progression. Heck, they don't look like they will be content with progression at the pace of Chelsea - Man City's owners want it all, and they want it now!

But enough with Queen, even if Freddie Mercury remains one of the greatest showmen to ever grace this planet. Man City's apparent attempt to outdo every other club in England, and beyond, is a worry. There is no financial reason for them not to manage it, and there are enough mercenaries in the game who will move anywhere for enough cash to improve their reputation with each transfer window.

In an ideal world - which this clearly isn't - the other clubs would sit back and let City's owners have their moment in the limelight, rather than try and compete. But I can't help but feel there will be a domino effect. Fans want instant success in the modern game, so the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United will be forced to compete, or attempt to, with Man City. That can only end in tears as they haven't got deep enough pockets.

Can anything be done to stop the Man City effect destroying top-flight football across Europe? Perhaps not...

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!