Saturday, September 21, 2019
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Euro 2016: More for Money than for Substance


Euro 2016 logo (via wikipedia)Uefa have confirmed the expansion of the European Championships format from the 2016 tournament onwards. The change involves expanding the number of competing nations from sixteen to twenty-four, and as a part of this expansion the number of nations who will be eligible to host the tournament will be limited.

 

 

 

These proposals have to be seriously questioned from the outset and I have to say that they are surely being made for all the wrong reasons. Franz Beckenbauer sat in on the meeting in a non-voting capacity as a European Fifa Executive member, surely a phrase that goes some way to describing the often muddled politics of football's governing body! Beckenbauer's opinion on the change to the competition was that "The European Championships will not lose any quality by that."

 

Unfortunately, as great a player, manager and advocate of the game as he is, I have to question where Beckenbauer's assurance on this matter comes from. In terms of why Uefa have decided they need to expand a competition that is currently popular and successful, I can see no real justification beyond the need to ensure that popular nations definitely qualify. This should in theory spare England any future embarrassment but surely this shouldn't be the point, instead UEFA are deliberately starting to erode the competitive nature of the European Championships in favour of a widening commercial market.


In simple monetary terms Uefa and Fifa will gain enormously from T.V. and merchandising revenue generated by the eight extra nations who qualify for the tournament proper. Of course it could be argued that this increased capacity will help generate even more interest for the game of football, which can only be a good thing. This though is quite frankly, a sham of an argument. Football has widened it's appeal massively over the decades and especially since the early nineties, any suggestion that it requires larger tournaments to entice the interest of even larger audiences world wide, is nothing better than a red herring to the real reasoning behind the decision.

 


I'm afraid that the change in format to the European Championship is instead rather clearly motivated by money and business, and once again this shows how too much of modern football is being dictated by commercial values rather than sporting ones. If we look at the European Championships themselves, it is striking in how it differs to the World Cup. Obviously the World Cup is viewed as the premier international tournament, and in many ways it is, there is the history and glamour, and most importantly the title of being the best international team in the world.

 


Alternatively the European Championships offer a simple, more elitist competition, qualification is tough and as England realised, far from guaranteed. With the current format there are four groups of four, and this leaves the system of seeding teams as a rather token gesture. With this streamlined format there is always an assured quality to the level of competition between teams, and although there is an established higher order of nations that consistently qualify, the European Championships have been as prone as any other competition to diverse/shock results.

 


However often the World Cup delivers salivating football, it rarely presents us with "groups of death" that really deserve the name. With the recent European Championship, every neutral observer was enthralled by the draw that placed the likes of Italy, Holland and France in the same group stage. With the impending format change it is far less likely that these so-called big nations will face such staunch tests in future, in fact the irony is that by expanding the capacity of the Euros, Uefa are not only diluting the quality of the competition but also making life for the larger nations that bit easier. Pardon me for not seeing the global picture, but I'd rather England fail to qualify for the European Championships, as was deserved, rather than flattering to deceive against opponents who had likewise failed to meet expectations.

 

 

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