Monday, 30 May 2005

Sporting goods

Great sports moments of the last few weeks:

  • The Champions League final - exciting stuff, even if I'm sworn to hate Liverpool. Should they be in the Champions League next year to defend the title? I say no - if World Cup holders have to qualify like everyone else, I think defending Champions League winners should do likewise.
  • The European Grand Prix - how I wish I could've stayed on in Germany for a few days just to be at Nürburgring.
  • Afleet Alex nearly falling to the ground in the Preakness along with jockey Jeremy Rose, before Afleet Alex and Rose recovered to win. Lord knows how Rose managed to cling on, but the Afleet Alex back story (colt abandoned by mother, raised by humans, now connected to a children's cancer charity) is pretty good.




I gotta admit that even as a die hard Liverpool fan, I was a bit sceptical of whether they would be allowed to defend their title next season. But having heard the arguments for and against recently, I'm convinced they should. Here's the logical argument:

a) Whether the champion should have to qualify to defend their title is a moot argument. UEFA rules do not have a preference one way or other. If a team from any country other than Italy, Spain and England were in Liverpool's situation, they would have an extra place. In fact, UEFA's seedings formula explicitly sets aside the top seed for the champion, independent of the number of places allocated to countries.

b) If any club from Italy, Spain or England were in Liverpool's position, they would be excluded according to the current rules. The argument (admittedly a greedy one) is that this is unfair discrimination to the three countries, and also that you are penalising them for success.

c) It's useful to remember that the "four clubs from one country" rule was instituted in the old days when the Group Stage of the Champions League was limited to 16 teams. This was to ensure that there would not be more than one club from one country in any group. However, the Group Stage have since been amended to 32 teams, so the chief motivation for the rule has disappeared.

d) It's a bit disingenuous of UEFA to say that the rules cannot be changed mid-season. If the Liverpool situation did not occur, there would be no pressure to change the rules from anyone, and the status quo would remain. If rules could only be changed for the season after, then the team that creates the situation that results in the pressure to change is effectively a sacrificial lamb. It makes no sense. not to change.

e) Finally, to the notion that Liverpool's entry would sacrifice to the place of some deserving club down the ladder: it IS unfair in sporting terms, but overall more people would want to watch a Premiership side rather than the Icelandic champion who is more than likely to be kicked out in the first qualifying round.

f) Overall, I think the commercial and political pressure would tip the balance in Liverpool's direction; it certainly wouldn't (and shouldn't) be the main reason but clearly it is in the tournament's interest to have Liverpool. Remember how the FA Cup felt devalued when Man Utd didn't defend it to play in the World Club Championship? I don't think the FA Cup has totally recovered from that yet.


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