National team football

Non! 24 teams for France 2016 is just plain wrong

We’ve just enjoyed an excellent European Championship, witnessed a genuinely decent team win the tournament and what do they do? Attempt to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. In other words, UEFA do not know what a compelling product they have.

The reason it is so successful – and there have been more good Euros than FIFAs – is the size and the quality. But no, it’s not good enough for Monsieur Platini, he wants to grab the TV rights, maximize income and bloat the championship.

We did see signs of the patronization of football crowds at Euro 2012 in the form of the countdown – let’s hope it does not become a feature of all football from this year onwards – and the so-called Disnification of the sport. The decision to expand the European Championship is just another example of the suits and blazers having little regard for the paying customer.

It only serves to further illustrate, and confirm, that UEFA are a bunch of buffoons. They really cannot be trusted to do the right thing. Just look at the huge combined harvester that the UEFA Champions League has become, killing off other competitions, rendering the once mighty UEFA Cup to become the also-ran that is the Europa League, and in the process, destroying all midweek football attendances in Europe.

What’s also ridiculous is that the qualifying competition comprises some 50 nations. That means a lengthy competition, bordering on tedious, will dispose of less than 20 teams. Then, 32 teams go through to France 2016. If you don’t qualify for the Euros with a structure like that, you really are no-hopers!

Ludicrously, UEFA are trying to justify the decision by claiming that a 16 team competition excludes “great teams” like Switzerland, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania (!), Slovenia (!!), Norway and Scotland (!!!). I don’t know that sort of exotic substance they pass around in UEFA headquarters in Nyon, but it is certainly working!

They also claim it will “expand the fan basis….boosting overall stadium capacity”. Well, if all the travelling supporters from those aforementioned “great” teams were to turn up,  I doubt it would fill one stadium.

It was not that long ago that UEFA expanded the European Championship to 16 – in 1996. It’s been a success, with captivating tournaments in 1996, 2000, 2008 and 2012. But 24 clubs is lop-sided and means that the first stage eliminates just eight teams. It did not work for the World Cup when it tried 24 from 1982 to 1994.

Sadly, there’s nothing to be done. Get set for mediocrity in 2016.

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