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Why are the FA/PL sabotaging English teams in UCL?


By Jerry

Premier League teams participating in the Champions League in the last few years appear to struggle during the knockout phase of the competition highlighted last year with no PL team surviving the Round of 16 (Chelsea, Manchester City, and Arsenal).

This year, Manchester United was knocked out in the groups, Chelsea have been knocked out in Round of 16, Arsenal are currently down 2-0 to Barcelona going into the 2nd leg, while Manchester City is likely to progress based on their 3-1 away first leg win over Dynamo Kiev. As an Arsenal fan, as much as I believe in the ability of Arsenal to overcome a 2 goal deficit away, based on the odds only one English team is likely to progress to the Quarters (City, but I hope I am wrong with Arsenal progressing also).

One team progressing, I guess, can be considered progress from an FA/PL view. Tony and the Untold team have already discussed various failures of the FA particularly funding for grass roots football, but has the FA/PL also failed to support the teams participating in Europe’s biggest club competition?

Manchester City vs Dynamo Kiev

This came to my mind after seeing Pete’s comment that England did enough to maintain 4 CL spots based on country coefficients and after looking at the schedule of Arsenal and Manchester City in the Round of 16.  City is likely to progress, but the FA/PL definitely did not make it easy on them.

City had to play Chelsea away in the FA Cup 3 days before the 1st leg and then Liverpool 4 days after in the League Cup final. For the 2nd leg, City plays Norwich away in the league 3 days before, and then has the Manchester derby 5 days later. Why wasn’t the Chelsea match prior to the first leg on the 20th considering City’s last game before was on the 14th and Chelsea’s on the 16th (CL) giving the team an extra day to prepare for the CL?

Dynamo Kiev, on the other hand, was returning from their winter break for the 1st leg with a friendly 7 days earlier and then a cup match 6 days later. For the 2nd leg, Dynamo has 4 days before to prepare and 5 days after facing City.

Dynamo had extra days before and after the 1st, and also has an extra day before to prepare for the 2nd leg compared to City.

Chelsea vs PSG

Prior to the 1st leg away, Chelsea played Newcastle at home 3 days earlier (in PL) and then 5 days after at home against Manchester City (in FA Cup). For the 2nd leg, Chelsea played Stoke at home 4 days before (in PL) and then will play Everton away (in the FA Cup) 3 days later.

PSG on the other hand, played at home (league) against Lille 3 days before and then Reims at home (league) 4 days after the 1st leg. For the 2nd leg, PSG played at home 4 days before against Montpellier (league) and then away 4 days after to Troyes (league).

Chelsea had an extra day to recover from the first league compared to PSG, but their reward was to play Manchester City. PSG has an extra day to recover for the 2nd leg; with their reward is an away match against Troyes (20th in Ligue 1) where PSG can possibly clinch the league title this weekend! Not much difference between Chelsea and PSG in regards to days off, but big difference in level of competition before and after each leg.

Arsenal vs Barcelona

Arsenal played Hull at home in the FA Cup 3 days before the Barcelona 1st leg and then United away 5 days later in the PL. For the 2nd leg, Arsenal will play Watford at home in the FA Cup 3 days before and then Everton away in the PL early kickoff 3 days later. That is 3 matches in the matter of 6 days.

Barcelona had a similar schedule for the first leg playing Las Palmas away (in La Liga) 3 days before and then playing Sevilla at home (La Liga) 5 days after the 1st leg. For the 2nd leg, however, Barcelona plays Getafe (La Liga) at home 4 days before and Villarreal away 4 days later (La Liga).

The Spanish FA/La Liga provided Barcelona an extra day to prepare as well as an extra day to recover compared to Arsenal for the 2nd leg.

In Summary

In my opinion, this curiously looks like the PL/FA self-inflicting damage to English football throughout Europe.  All 3 English teams (Chelsea, City, and Arsenal) had scheduling disadvantages compared to their opponents for the 2nd leg of the Round of 16. City also had less time before and after the 1st leg as well.

Then, just look again at some of the English fixtures surrounding the Round of 16 legs, most of these fixtures would be category A matches (Everton-category B):

  • Chelsea vs Manchester City
  • Manchester City vs Liverpool
  • Manchester City vs Manchester United
  • Chelsea vs Everton
  • Arsenal vs. Manchester United
  • Arsenal vs Everton

If I was working for the FA/PL, I would have a few questions:

1) Why did the FA/PL not protect the brand by making sure that the teams participating in these category A matches can put out the best teams possible?

City literally threw away the FA Cup against Chelsea by fielding their B team/younger players. Arsenal has been fielding their B team, but they are competitive enough to advance and it is more club policy I think (pending opponent such as the fielding of a stronger team versus Tottenham).

2) Why are we sabotaging the chances of PL teams to advance in the CL by giving their opponents a scheduling advantage?

In particular, a scheduling disadvantage for all teams in the 2nd leg?

3) How did I get involved in this hot mess?

I mean, it should be considered common sense to protect the brand of the organization I am employed at and to ensure that I am not sabotaging the teams that I am responsible for? Right?


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19 comments to Why are the FA/PL sabotaging English teams in UCL?

  • Mandy Dodd

    It is beyond bizarre. I suspect it is something to do with selling themselves out to the TV companies.
    But should we lose a place in the ECL, they may well regret their stance, I would imagine the clubs may have something to say as well.
    In fact, I am amazed such rich and powerful clubs as their are in this league keep so quiet on this.

  • Rosicky@Arsenal

    Infact i differ from various people regarding the issue of rotation/rest/interval between matches. In my opinion playing twice in a week sis never an issue for these professional footballers in the prime age of 20/30.
    Why should be it a problem a young man of 25 years with super fitness to play just 180 minute of game in 10000 minutes of a week.
    Its beyond my imagination.
    Infact fit players like Messi Suarez Alexis love to play each n every game of the season.
    Unless a player has an injury i think there is any issue of fatigue for a player playing 2 games a week.
    Maybe any reader having

    knowledge about the subject can put some light on the subject.

  • Rosicky@Arsenal

    Unless a player is injured there is no need to rest him or roate.
    Any reader having knowledge on the subject may correct me if i am wrong

    Pls pardon me for the wrong english in the previous comment.

  • ob1977

    It is crazy to think that this is looked at and rectified, especially since the pretence that the fixtures are random is now thrown out.

    playing devils advocate I haven’t got too much of a problem with a full 3 days recovery say Saturday afternoon / Tuesday evening / Saturday afternoon, or Sunday / Wednesday / Sunday, as all have over 3 days (72 hrs) recovery, but our Sunday afternoon to Wednesday evening (over 72 hours no real problem) then to Saturday lunchtime (less than 63 hours) this week just seems that little bit extra on the body, maybe as normally when you play Wednesday you will play 3 pm Saturday at the earliest…

    But as you say, this is all too easily avoidable…

  • Arthur

    The FA and premier league do not want the champions league to succeed. They want their own competitions to be more successful and therefore earn more money. They want the champions league to be unsuccessful and therefore earn less money.

  • Jambug


    To my mind it’s not about whether any particular player can play 20, 30 or 40 games a season. Of course they can. If every player at every club played the same amount of matches then the effects of fatigue would not matter so much because all players would pretty mitch tire over the season at the same rate, meaning they would all be in a fairly level physical state come the final matches of the season.

    The issue is with relative physical condition come the business end of the season.

    If for example Arsenal played there 4 most effective players every game up until March, but City had rested theirs for say 25% of the matches then they would have a fairly big advantage going in to the final run-in.

    So if possible it is always wise to get as much rest in to the legs of as many players as possible, and that’s by and large what all Clubs, especially the top ones that are often competing on 2, 3 or even 4 fronts for a long time, try to do.

    There is of course a potential hitch with doing this and that is the possibility of misjudging a game you rest players for and you get beaten.

    But that is a risk that has to be taken and it’s down to the skill and judgement of the manager to get it right.

    The fact is, to ensure you don’t end up with a relatively burnt out 1st choice 11 at the end you have to rotate.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Rosicky….see your point, but referring to the Barca players specifically, they play in a pretty uncompetitive league and are well protected by refs… we know to our cost, so I wouldn’t expect them to have the same injury fitness fatigue issues that we do.
    I know Messi had a spell last year, but Barca… a EPL team I could mention seem almost suspiciously injury free. Barca always seem to be able to play their best players.
    Suspicions raised by the Spanish government refusing names to be revealed in their recent blood doping enquires

  • Mark

    Surely the computer could make sure that the games around the CL games are not “big” matches, although the way the league is heading and more money for the lower teams means that most sides are a lot stronger than ever before. But to play at 1245pm on the Saturday is rather unfair.
    They could have played Watford today but television scheduling rules. As the boss said recently we get the money so can’t complain.

  • ob1977

    Mark that’s the one for me, why play 12:45 on Saturday after a Wednesday evening kick off, it’s ridiculous…

  • blacksheep63

    I don’t think you can simply take the fixture list into consideration here. Barcalona and PSG (just to give 2 examples) have much easier leagues to compete in. The pressure on PL teams is that much greater because the quality in the division is better (overall).
    Second, we are hamstrung by not having a winter break. Dortmun beat Sp*rs on Thursday (snigger) and their players had enjoyed a break from all football in January while the Tinies had played 10 games in the same period. That has to tell, surely?
    I’m not sure I’d blame the FA or the PL I’d blame the clubs over here who are not prepared to a) reduce the size of the Pl b) cut out the League cup and c) countenance the idea of a winter break. And I’d blame us, the fans, for much the same reason!

  • Jambug


    I’m not sure who’s to blame.

    1)I miss football terribly when there’s even the slightest break. International week for example. So I would hate a mid season break. It’s part of what makes the bleak mid winter bearable. I love the Christmas football. I’m sure a lot of fans feel the same.

    2)Reducing the size of the premiership would only give the players more time off in the Summer so I’m not sure how that would help the situation regarding the mid season congestion.

    3)Regarding the League Cup, an idea might be to play the entire 2nd string. Don’t ever risk a front line player. Sounds good until you think of all the shit the Club will get from the Media and fans alike (at least at Arsenal they will) if and when you get knocked out.

    4)As for the problem with the ‘Depth’ of quality in the PL. Well I’m not really sure anything can be done about that. It’s a price you pay for having the richest league in the World.

    So of the 4 main problems you speak, 1)and 3) to an extent, is fan driven. 2) Wouldn’t really help the CL issue. 4) Is a price we pay for being so rich.

    The only answer is co operation between the Clubs, the FA and Pl, and the TV companies.

    So that isn’t ever going to happen.

  • Jerry

    Thank you everyone for your comments to the article.

    @Rosicky, I agree that players are fit enough to play twice a week. But looking at the schedule, the English clubs were playing 3 games in 6/7 days. City were at a greater disadvantage though but I am going use Arsenal for example:

    1) Play Sunday (home), CL Wednesday (away), and Saturday (away) lunch time.
    Hardly enough time to recover from niggles from the prior game, implement and practice a gameplan, especially when you consider travel time as well.

    A simple switch of games would have helped the situation.
    Arsenal should have played Watford today, while Chelsea should have played Everton tomorrow.

    Problem solved: Arsenal have 4 days to prepare for Barcelona, and Chelsea would have had 4 days to recover after their 2nd leg. A win-win for both teams competing in the UCL,

  • Jambug


    That was the co operation I was talking about. Wont ever happen. Far too easy.

  • laos gooner

    I think there are some valid points to be considered. There is also room to ask if the different style of reffing in the CL compared to the PL disadvantages English teams. Would we have more success if our rule application was closer to what we might expect in Europe? I hope this is not seen as too far off theme as I feel that we should not limit this to a single factor.

  • Jerry

    I also wanted to say thank you to Tony and the Untold team for publishing this article and allowing readers to contribute articles.

    I agree that cooperation is needed between the clubs, FA, PL, and tv companies, but one can argue there is already cooperation or else these events/matches would not be taking place. They are just not efficient.

    @laos gooner,
    I agree the northern style of officiating does put the PL teams at a disadvantage where other European leagues are more strict based on the naked eye and evidence provided by Walter, Usama, and the Untold team, but unfortunately I haven’t seen any other similar evaluations of refs in other leagues, or at least not as in depth.

    The other major leagues, however, do take steps to prevent ref influence by having more select group refs and also having an even distribution of matches between all the refs.

  • Pete

    Jerry – glad I inspired you!

    Agree with your thesis. The recent under-performance of the English teams in Europe has been pitiful. Considering the financial advantages the English have we should be dominating against all but Real Mad, Barca, Bayern and PSG.

    It is a reasonable comment about the strength of the domestic league – but the TV scheduling is nuts. Still find it hard to believe the Chelsea – Man C cup tie was rescheduled despite the fact Man C threatened to throw the game if it was…. Are the TV execs really that stupid? I guess so.

    The problem is, top players want to play in the CL. If there chance of doing so is diminished in England than they will be less likely to sign – a bit counter-productive from the PL.

    I firmly believe that every reasonable step should be taken to support English clubs in Europe. If possible, four days between games should be targeted. So play Fri-Tues or Thu-Mon. At worst, a minimum of 72 hours between KO times. So Weds evening/Sat lunchtime is absolutely off the table. If that means the TV companies have to reshuffle their games, so be it.

  • Gooner S

    Ignorance, stupidity and greed. We have one too many cup competitions that are mandatory for Premier League teams. The scheduling is dictated by TV companies and greed with rules attached. That football coverage is split between BT and Sky in the main plus The BBC means satisfying the self interests of three parties rather than one!

  • Brickfields Gunners

    I too vote for stupidity , greed and match fixing.

  • Tasos

    English clubs have less chance of progressing in Europe whilst our cross channel competitors receive domestic help, via fixture change, and we get domestic fixture hindrance.

    This is just one of the issues why Premier League clubs are falling behind, as a consequence the league will probably lose its fourth CL qualifying position to Italy in the coming years via the coefficient process.

    Incompetence of the highest order. Stupidity beyond belief.