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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
The arrival of Michel Platini as the head of UEFA was supposed to herald a new dawn for European football. It was the ascent of a footballing legend, a lover of the game, into a position of great power. What a shame that he's turned out to be just like the faceless bureaucrats he replaced.

Let's start with the bloated incoherence of the UEFA Cup. Once, the most intriguing of the European competitions, it was an exciting run of unseeded, two-legged knock-out games. These days, of course, it's an interminable dirge, punctuated by an ill-conceived, unbalanced group stage, then back to an interminable dirge.

Even UEFA could see that this was rubbish so they bunkered down in Nyon, cleared their schedules and came up with...The Europa League! Yes, now it's an interminable dirge, punctuated by a balanced group stage and then back to an interminable dirge. With a new name!

"The changes to the name, logo and brand identity," waffled a UEFA press release, "are the logical conclusion following the decision to alter the format of the UEFA Cup."

No, no and a thousand times, no! Changing the name is not the logical conclusion! If your child is failing at school, you can't just start calling him Einstein in the hope that his grades will go up. You have to find out why he's failing and then sort it out. The one, stand-out reason for the monotony of the UEFA Cup, for all those empty seats at The Eastlands in midweek, is the knowledge that the third placed Champions League teams will be parachuted into the melee in the latter stages, rendering the entire first half of the competition utterly pointless. Why couldn't Platini see this?

Then you have the scandal of the European Championships. Euro08 was one of those rare moments where you could please all of the people all of the time. We, the fans, got a month of outstanding, attacking football. They, the powers that be, made an absolute fortune out of the marketing and broadcasting rights. It was as close to perfect as an international tournament could ever be. Only UEFA could be bone-headed enough to say, "That was brilliant! Now let's change it."

From 2016, the European Championships will be extended to 24 teams which, as anyone who watched the World Cup in the 1980s will know, is like injecting a puppy with tranquilisers. When the third placed team in a group of four can qualify, it means that they can draw all their games and still go through. It means that they don't have to try and win. It means that all that attacking football is at an end. Nice one, lads. Thanks. For. That.

We expect this kind of brand-obsessed, money-grabbing vandalism from the likes of Sepp Blatter, but it's a crushing blow to see Platini kneeling at his altar. Football is not exempt from the credit crunch and it's not immune to saturation. If UEFA continue to squeeze it for cash at the price of entertainment, if they extend or manipulate competitions for TV instead of catering for the people who actually watch it, then they will be the architects of their own downfall.