Alec Swann - Champions title nothing more than a bad joke

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

Manchester United shouldn’t be in it, Arsenal shouldn’t be in it, Bayern Munich shouldn’t be in it, Barcelona shouldn’t be in it, Chelsea should’ve been it it.

Celtic, and Dynamo Zagreb shouldn’t have had to qualify to get in it. And neither should have Debrecen.

Any ideas?

Well it shouldn’t take too long to put two and two together and come up with the bloated and convoluted behemoth that is the UEFA Champions League.

A competition that is so far removed from the title it continues to utilise that trades descriptions should really be getting their lawyers involved.

The brainchild of a committee somewhere in the not too distant past that placed financial gain ahead of anything that could have been considered a sporting principle, it has grown to the point where it no longer does - if it ever did - as it is supposed to.

The Arsenal versus Bayern Munich clash earlier in the week was a pleasure to watch, mainly for the superior brand of football that the Germans displayed, but it highlighted everything that is wrong with the very concept of an event that is, in name only, for champions.

Neither side won their domestic leagues last season, the Gunners finishing 19 points behind Manchester City and Bayern eight adrift of Borussia Dortmund, and neither side had to sweat unduly to reach the knockout stages.

Six group games, or 540 minutes if you want to be pedantic, of time that would be better spent doing something else and not merely setting the stage before the continent’s heavy hitters have to step it up a gear.

A schedule that fills the TV listings and provides the British audience with more opportunity to listen to Andy Townsend state the bleedin’ obvious - “He’ll be disappointed with that Clive” - but doesn’t offer the cutthroat competition that it should.

And all to line the pockets of the clubs and massage UEFA’s bottom line.

How else can you explain the fact that a number of country’s champions have to pre-qualify for the gravy train?

Why should Celtic be forced to book their place among the elite when they came out on top in their own backyard?

I realise it’s down to a baffling system called the co-efficient of whatever, or something like that, which ranks leagues in terms of quality, but in truth it’s nothing short of patronising.

Are the champions of Croatia poorer relations than the side who triumphed in Spain? No they aren’t but UEFA sees them as such.

Manchester United couldn’t win the Premier League but they are worthy of a red-carpeted shot at the European Cup ahead of Debrecen who were successful in Hungary.

It stinks of giving those with the clout even more of the same and devalues the format which used to be very obvious and very simple.

League winners and the defending champions made up the entrants for a two-legged knockout which was streamlined and showed off cup football at it’s finest.

If the Swedish champions were drawn to face superior opposition from Spain then so be it and if two clubs from the same country met, as Liverpool and Nottingham Forest once did, then that was purely down to the luck of the draw.

Instead we now have sides that are seeded to allow safer passage and a contrived draw that means fellow countrymen can’t meet until the latter stages.

Those who regularly fill the slots - Manchester United, Bayern, Real Madrid et al - will never complain because they have the best of everything but the second-class citizens of the European game should be up in arms as they are, year on year, dumped on from a great height.

They won’t of course, due to the vast riches that are within their grasp, but the competition is all the poorer for its top heavy bias.

Champions League? They’re having a laugh.