WHY is it that I am instantly suspicious when footballing authorities push through a “good idea”?
Maybe I am just using FIFA’s dubious decision to award Russia and Qatar the next two World Cups as a yardstick here, but as soon as news of UEFA’s “Nations League” competition came out I immediately looked for the catch.
Sure, getting rid of meaningless friendlies is a great idea, but is it just me or is UEFA replacing them with another money-making venture along the lines of the Champions League?
For me, the main consequence – intended or otherwise – of the Champions League has been to swell the coffers of Europe’s elite clubs and skew the competition of the respective national leagues, rather than increase the standard of football on offer.
And I can’t see the Nations League being any different.
The basic premise is that Europe’s football-playing nations will be carved up into tiered divisions to compete for, along with the prestige of victory, places in the Euros and possibly even the World Cup in the future.
There will be promotion and relegation between these divisions, but eventually you will find matches between Germany, Spain, Italy and, hopefully, England will become firm fixtures on the footballing calendar.
Further down Europe’s new footballing pyramid, the rest of the home nations – Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – could conceivably find themselves playing each other on a more regular basis.
What’s wrong with that?
Well, that’s just the thing, the consequences of these “good ideas” are not always obvious straight away.
The motivating factor is clearly to create more money – for UEFA, for football federations and for broadcasters.
As in the Champions League, where the rich clubs have got richer and the lesser teams have been relegated to fighting over the scraps in the Europa League, the same will surely happen at international level.
TV income is set to be organised in a similar way to the Champions League, with each country being awarded half the value of its nation’s TV rights deal and the rest shared out across the 54 nations via participation money and match bonuses.
What you might find, however, is that Europe’s football lovers are more interested in watching the top-tier teams lock horns, rather than their own countries. So the top nations scoop up the majority of the cash.
UEFA may also find interest in the full version of the European Championships suffers a dip, with the Nations League superceding it as the premier competition.
Whether or not the competition takes off, I think there is a real danger of football overload.
I just wonder how much more football the world can take before interest starts to wane across the board.