UEFA have announced that they will be introducing a third European cup competition.
There has been no further information beyond the fact that it will run concurrently to the Champions League and the Europa League as a midweek competition. Several theories have emerged about what the tournament is for, but there’s absolutely no actual information about what this new tournament is going to be for.
So with that in mind, we here at Squawka put our heads together to come up with what we think UEFA’s latest competition should be. Here are nine rules we think would make the competition great fun as well as unique enough to stand out against the largely homogenised qualities of the Champions and Europa Leagues.
1. A cup for its own sake
The first point is a small but important one: winning this new UEFA cup would lead to… winning this new UEFA cup. There would be no additional qualification or promotion to the Europa or Champions leagues offered as an incentive. This new competition would not be a backdoor qualification, it would simply be a cup for its own sake.
2. Qualification comes via domestic cups
Instead of dredging further down the league tables of Europe’s top five leagues to look for qualifying clubs, a process which would result in mid-table sides offering mid-table ambition, or instead of disqualifying the larger leagues from providing participants thus diminishing the contests appeal in those lucrative broadcast markets; the solution to how UEFA select the clubs to play for this is simply.
Every nation has a domestic cup (some have two!) so why not set the rule that the only way to qualify for this new UEFA cup is to win your major domestic one first? This would allow clubs to take their domestic cups seriously and also give you a colossal pool of clubs to draw from without needing to bother the Champions League qualification.
In the event that a side wins the domestic double; then the cup runner up will be granted entry here. If the winner of a domestic cup qualifies for the Europa League, they will automatically qualify for this tournament and their Europa League spot will move to one place below them in the league table. This is a cup for cup winners. What a novel and original idea, eh?
3. Two-legged knockout rounds only
Group stages have their merits but by and large they tend to render the first half of the Champions League a bit of a grind. The inevitable nearly always happens; shocks are extremely rare. So this new UEFA cup would do away with them and have every single qualifying team thrust into a colossal knock-out round tournament consisting of the staple two-legged elimination format.
4. No seeding
Seeding exists primarily to protect the interests of the large UEFA clubs, the elites. Well, the Champions League serves that purpose quite well so this new UEFA cup will have no need to do the same. No side will be seeded in this tournament.
If Arsenal and Sevilla are in it, Arsenal and Sevilla could play each other in the first round. This will make the tournament a thrilling and gripping watch from the very beginning and make sure that the easy rides some elite clubs have been used to getting will not exist.
5. VAR and (branded) goal-line technology
VAR and goal-line technology have shown that they can both be tremendous tools to help referees make correct decisions. VAR may stifle the flow of a game somewhat, but the fact that it results in the correct decision being made cannot be overlooked. VAR would be easily implemented, but goal-line technology would need an investment from UEFA to provide the technology to most of the smaller sides competing in the tournament.
But taking a cue from American sports, UEFA would simply need to find a sponsor willing to pay to be the face of it. Having your brand’s name mentioned every time they go to use goal-line technology would be worth a fair amount, which would offset the initial cost.
6. A maximum of five over-23 players
One of the big laments regarding the Europa League is the strain it puts on smaller squads, so the solution here is simple. This new UEFA cup would permit a maximum of five players over the age of 23 years old (from the start of the season) to be on the field at any given time. This means over half of every team would need to be made up of young players, which would lead to teams giving their youth academies a genuine chance.
7. Unlimited substitutions
First, there were no substitutions. Then one was allowed in case of injury. Then three. Then the bench expanded to seven. In Serie A it’s now the whole squad, etc. etc. etc. why, in 2018, is there still a limit on substitutions? With the pace the game is played at (and the size of many squads) it’s utterly ludicrous that an arbitrary number of three dictates so much of the game.
No. In this UEFA cup, a side can make as many substitutions as they want. This would again ease the strain on squads and allow teams to compete as hard as they possibly can. No rolling subs, though.
8. No away goals
The away goals rule was originally designed to make games more attacking, as teams would ostensibly go away from home and try to score. But what it’s actually done is just make home teams more defensive as they’re petrified of conceding an away goal. It also saw Milan eliminate Inter in the 2003 Champions League semi-finals on away goals despite both games being played in the same stadium!
So no, do away with away goals. It no longer serves its purpose and has become unnecessary. It will be a shame to no longer hear commentators say “well actually that goal doesn’t change much for them!” but it’s a small price to pay.
9. No extra-time
Without away goals, we’ll also have to get rid of extra time so that the side playing at home in the second-leg doesn’t have an absurd advantage. It’s mostly for the best anyway, extra time is another unnecessary burden on sides. It’s nearly always an overly cautious affair where plays are petrified of making a mistake and too exhausted to usually push on and attack.
10. Draws decided by a hockey-style shootout
Without extra-time, we go straight to penalties, right? Wrong. The penalty shootout is kind of played-out. And the skill-set required to be a great penalty taker is so divorced from what it takes to be a great footballer that it seems so odd that it has become the ultimate deciding factor.
No, in this new UEFA cup, matches would be decided by a MLS-style shootout. Plays get the ball 40 yards from goal and have a set amount of time (let’s say six seconds?) in which to score. They can make as many moves as they want to in that time, but the clock is always ticking. Any foul by the goalkeeper results in a goal being automatically given.
This would be a better test of player’s skill, but most importantly would be absolutely brilliant to watch as some players come up with inventive ways of scoring whilst others just try not to embarrass themselves.
11. Games start at 17:00
The final point is the shortest but perhaps most important. Games start at 17:00. Why? Because the kids, that’s why. The Champions League final being on a Saturday so kids can watch is great, but they still can’t really watch the regular games can they? This tournament is all about being inclusive, so matches start early and finish up before the Champions League kicks off.
This means that children from all around Europe can come home from school and watch the games before dinner and bed. And as an added bonus there will be no TV clash with the Champions League so games can be freely played on Tuesday and Wednesday.