Will Arsenal save the Champions league

by Walter Broeckx

This is the follow up on an article that was on this site and that you could read here.

Back to the Champions League and the fact that if the new ruling comes in place and if this would mean that some big teams could not play in it. Would this be a disaster and for whom? It could spell disaster for the big teams itself but would it spell disaster for the Champions League itself? If Arsenal would miss out on being in the Champions League it would not harm us much when we just look at paying off  the debts for the Emirates. We can survive if we just play in the CL every 4th year.  It would be bad for us fans and maybe some players would want to go but we would not lose all and everything like Leeds did a few years ago. We would make less profit or none at all in such a year but we wouldn’t be hit as hard financially as the other teams in the EPL who had based their total structure on this income every year.

People say that the we do not want to see a final between let us say Cluj (champion from Romania) and Anderlecht (champion from Belgium). In fact this could have been a final before the Champions league as both countries have had teams in the final of Europacup 1 in those days. But not anymore since the Champions league like I explained in my previous article on this.

But maybe this would have as a result that more people will get interested again in the Champions League. It would raise the interest of people from those country’s that’s for sure. And maybe we don’t realise it anymore but the fact that edition number 6, or something like that,  between Chelsea and MU, and certainly when it is as bad game and lacks any attractive football like in the last final between them, people turn off their TV and look at something else. In fact this was the reaction from many people in Belgium and Holland during that dreadful and boring final. I think it has more to do with the quality of the game than with the teams involved. I think a final where you can see attractive football will always have an audience.

I can imagine that the interest in England for an all English final is very big but is this the same in the rest of Europe ? And as ratings are very important for sponsors I think it would be worthwhile to look at the ratings of Holland, a country that is a bit football crazy (just look at the next weeks as Holland is and will be orange-coloured), produces some of the best players in the world, loves attacking and attractive football and see what we can learn from those numbers.

Last year’s final between Barcelona and MU finished in the 18th place in the top 100 from that year and had some 2.539.000 viewers.

In 2008 the final between MU and Chelsea finished in place 57 and just got 2.213.000 viewers.

In 2007 the final finished in place 35 and got only 2.090.000 viewers. And an interesting thing is that in that year the best watched CL game in Holland was Arsenal – PSV in the knockout stages.

And in 2006 the final that got the biggest crowd ever for a CL final in Holland was Arsenal – Barcelona. It finished in place 24 and some 3.216.000 people looked at it.

But if you think that is the best watched CL game in Holland I must say no. The most watched game was PSV – Milan which ended in 5th place in that year and got 3.810.000 viewers.

Well we can come to the conclusion that the people in Holland like the CL but they like it most when there is a Dutch team involved. In second place come the games with at  least one attractive playing  team like Arsenal or Barcelona. But from the moment there is no Dutch team or  attractive playing team in it, they lose interest and watch something else. I could add the last final between Bayern and Inter and the possibility of Mourinho boring them with another cup win did not attract the Dutch people at all. Only 2.136.000 people watched it and then to think that it had  rather a few Dutch players on the field and a Dutch coach. It means that the number of people watching can go down with some 40 % at times.

I think it would be wise to remember that most people watch football in the hope to see a good and attractive game. If they think it will be boring a lot of the people just don’t watch it live. The fans of the teams or players involved will look at it but most other people just want to see good football. So to answer my question : the interest in other countries for a CL finale between MU and Chelsea is not that big.

And people also like upsets in football. Football has always been a sport that has been attractive to a lot of people for the fact that it was unpredictable. This has gone now mostly and this could be a very bad thing for football in the long run. Seeing always the same names in the semi finals or the finals is not what most people want. We would love it if Arsenal would play the final each year but I think even we can understand that this would be in the long run a bad thing for football in general. And Arsenal in the final would be not that bad for football as we play in an attractive way but seeing a Mourinho team each year in the final would be killing the Champions League.

The CL only exists thanks to the money given by sponsors and advertising. If they would notice after some time  that people are not attracted anymore because of the football on show they could reconsider their spending of the money. And without the money from the CL it would spell even bigger disaster for the top clubs. Making the Champions league more attractive for teams from smaller countries could renew the interest from people in those countries. This is clearly shown by the statistics in Holland and I think this will be the same in most other “smaller” football countries.  But I’m not really sure on this but if someone has the numbers please let me know.

I know the market is much bigger in the UK than it is in Holland. But I also think that Uefa is looking further than just the UK market. And maybe one of the hidden reasons behind the new rules is to make the CL more than just a English-Spanish-Italian mini league competition. If you look at how many people you can reach we notice that those 3 countries have some 160M inhabitants. But there are some 731M people living in Europe and this means that those 3 countries only represent some 21% of the total population.  Some of those other 571M people will still have interest in the CL whoever plays but it could be they lose their interest after a while.

So maybe the new financial rulings could have another side affect. It could mean the end of the big 4 in the Champions league and bring in other teams from other countries. And maybe help France to another  cup win is maybe a secret wish from Platini.  As most of you are living in the UK,  a country that is  one of the big 4  you may not realise it but I noticed a lot of disinterest from football fans in my country for the Champions League, and  you can see this also in the statistics in Holland which is  another country. And from the moment sponsors realise this, the money could stop coming in or sponsors only willing to pay less money, and we all know what this would mean: Big trouble in football land.

It will be interesting to see how the CL will develop under the new financial rules and if teams from other countries will be able to break down the top as we know it now.

A few of my main conclusions on all this is:

The new rules could change the face of the Champions League in a few years time and I think that Uefa could have the guts to refuse the entrance of the big teams. They would have to do so if they stick to their own rules.  Uefa may just have a different view on the potential market and maybe, given as an  example, a Russian team in the CL final would be a big new market to explore and much appreciated by the sponsors.

Attractive football seems to be vital if you want to attract viewers from countries that are not directly involved.

As Arsenal is the only big team in the EPL that seems to be completely  ready for the new financial rules and plays attractive football it could well be that Arsenal will save the Champions League.


A final note from your temporary editor: As Tony has come back safely from his short holiday in France he will be taking over very shortly again. If you have any article that you want to see published you can use the old email address . Walter Broeckx


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11 Replies to “Will Arsenal save the Champions league”

  1. Liverpool are on their way to oblivion, Chelsea will show on paper they’re not in debt anymore after clever financial manoeuvres between the Club and Abramovich. Man Utd are going to have a serious problem and Arsenal will plod on and lead the way like we always do.

  2. The order of preferences is:

    1. Our team.
    2. A team from our country.
    3. Teams which play great football.

    On that basis, UEFA will only want a ‘small country’ team if they play great football, because a boring team from Romania or Denmark who get to the final won’t attract an audience.

    Nobody in Europe would mind an all-English final once in a while. Or an all Spanish (it happened in 2000). Or an all-Italian (it happened in 2003).

    They just don’t want it each year.

    And if you’re prepared to fix matches to stop that final happening, you’d better say so right now.

  3. There would be an easier way to stop the all-English, all-spanish situation, only keep them apart in the group stages. Use the co-efficiency rankings thereafter, but only based on the performances of that club not other clubs from that country.

  4. I totally agree – I did watch this year’s final but it was the first one I have watched since I was in Paris in 2006 – why would I want to watch United, Chelsea or Liverpool winning the trophy ???

  5. Do you seriously see a champions league without the likes of Madrid, Barcelona, Utd, et al? because I don’t, the income from TV would plummet like a stone, meaning less for Uefa’s coffers, and I can’t see them letting that happen, regardless of their “new” regulations.
    because as we say in England “where there’s a will, there’s a way”

  6. When the new regs are implemented, it won’t be long before Uefa discover that “all the Clubs toeing the line are actually out of step APART FROM THE BIG BOYS”…….so back to normal, QUICKLY!!!

  7. Interesting points Walter.

    i think ref couldmake games much more interestingif they dished out more yellow cards for bad tackles, dont tolerate shirt pulling and favour the attacking team rather than the defending team, they took the back pass rule out because it slowed the game down, what if they went further?

    the special one is anti football.

  8. Digger – I think your point is central to the whole argument. Does UEFA expect Barca etc to carry on as now and then be refused a licence to play?

    No they don’t, because as you suggest UEFA doesn’t want to chop its own finance supply line.

    UEFA expects the clubs to get themselves in order and to get a licence, and I am sure that will happen. The great benefit for Arsenal is that we can do this while continuing our current policy and while developing our current team. Man C, Man U, Chelsea, Aston Villa and Liverpool can’t.

    Man C and Chelsea can adjust, but they will then be weaker sides, but still formidable. Man U will have a very tough time of it, and they might have to drop out for a year while the sale to new owners goes through.

    Liverpool I think are sunk, and so won’t qualify anyway.

    Villa can do it, but they will have to stop relying on the money from their owner. I suspect they will be able to do this.

    Tottenham declare a profit, and there is nothing in the regs that stops ownership from outside the UK, and nothing to stop ownership through a Bahamaian and Virgin Islands set of companies, so they won’t have a problem.

    To summarise: Liverpool will be lost to the Champs League, but through poor performances as the club sinks. Man U will be lost because of the losses made on the borrowing.

    That might sound awful – but remember that Milan has as great a pedigree as Man U in the Champs, and the year Flamini went to Milan, Milan dropped out of the Champs League. The world didn’t end.

  9. Its still a long way when these rules will come in force, so its too early to come to any conclusions. All the teams have time to adjust their finances. So its just having false hopes too early. It is important for Arsenal that we concentrate on our next season. Concentrating on problems that other teams will face is not the Arsenal way. We have to become stronger no matter what other teams are doing.

  10. The biggest danger I see if UEFA sticks to its guns and refuses the major clubs from entering is for the big clubs to rebel and form a European Super League. Madrid did make a few noises about such a league and these rules could be the catalyst for forming the league.

    The Madrid’s, Barcelona and Chelsea’s will always seek to gain more revenue (be it through fair or unfair means) and if the champions league can no longer sustain their desire for money then the Super League will suddenly become more attractive.

    They have already used the threat of a super league to expand the champions league just to increase their revenue streams. And this happened when the major clubs were in a weaker position i.e. they did not have such a straggle hold on the competition. With the disparity in the clubs riches at this present time it would be a commercial disaster for UEFA to reject a large number of big clubs.

    What’s more if UEFA did actually followed through with their plans and rejected the clubs, the competition could be undermined further if the clubs did actually form the super league. If that happened then the Champions League would no longer hold its status as the premier European club competition and interest would be reduced even further.

  11. Uefa and Fifa could have one powerfull weapon in hand: the weapon of the national teams. They could say that teams who will go to play in such a super league will not be recognized by Fifa/uefa anymore and their players are not allowed to play for their national teams.
    So no chance for Messi, Ronaldo, Van Persie, Rooney to become World champions and this is the highest price you can win as a player.
    Many player really want to play the world cup and see it as the highest goal. So this could mean that the players have to make a choice and I’m not sure what they will choose.

    Forming a super league is also easier said than done. Because will you always have the same 20 teams in it? So only the first place is important but the other places don’t count for nothing? No tension for who is going down.
    This would open the door for a lot of …er… match fixing oportunities.

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