UEFA’s main goal is and always will be profit. But last movements showed more interest in short than long-term revenues.
Present Eurocup is the first that is being played by 24 teams. Until now 16 did. This move was intended to give more options to more teams and spread interest for the competition across Europe. With its respective increase of revenues. This logic, apparently well intended, is completely mistaken.
First obvious problem is that, when the tournament was of only 16 teams, already few countries had the capabilities to host it. After its enlargement the potential host countries became even less: England, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Russia and Turkey. Other countries will have many difficulties to produce enough stadiums, even in combined bids.
As consequence, the next Eurocup will be no hosted by any country. Instead multiple cities across Europe will do instead. Ruining the classic order and spirit of the competition. Group phase and last 16 and 8 rounds will be not very different from qualification rounds. Then, proper tournament will start at semi-finals. At the same time fans will not be able to travel to a place and watch their teams matches, as games will be played from Dublin to Baku or Rome to Saint Petersburg.
Every time there will be not a viable candidate to host the tournament we will face similar arrangement. And it will be quite often, as potential hosts already did it recently, have no will, prefer to host World Cup or Olympics or were mocked by Platini.
Second consequence of the enlargement was a lack of interest, both in final and qualification rounds. 53 teams played qualifying tournament for 2016 edition. 54 will play for 2020 after Kosovo joining UEFA. That makes almost half teams qualify. But, if we discard micro-States, which have no real options to qualify, the percentage of teams that qualify becomes even higher, more than half.
Big teams face no real opposition to challenge their qualification. Only interest becomes to discover which minnows will qualify. Unfortunately this is strongly influenced by luck in the draw and ability of federations to get better rank due to inconsistence of FIFA and UEFA rankings.
After a qualification without much interest, finally, we arrive to the final tournament. But the appeal barely grows up. With all the respect for small teams, many of them playing the tournament produces matches with a lack attract. Austria-Hungary is an example. This is not because they are teams with less potential, it is about the format. While enlarging the competition from 16 to 24 teams, we change from 4 groups where 2 best teams qualify, to six groups where first and runners up qualify, but also 4 best thirds. That makes every match of first phase less appealing and unfair.
This ‘stupid’ system was forgotten in World Cups when, in 1998(again France), competition grew up from 24 to 32 teams. That was a step forward to bring the World Cup to more corners of the World. Today’s Eurocup system recover this badly conceived format. To choose 4 best thirds standard points and goals systems are used. As I said, this is ‘stupid’, because it is not sportingly fair to compare teams which played in different groups. Paradoxically teams playing with weaker rivals benefit this system, while those which play stronger rivals get penalized. This way the third classified team of Italy, Belgium, Sweden and Ireland group will have less chances to qualify than third team of Portugal, Iceland, Austria and Hungary group.
After insipid group phase, we will arrive to last 16 round, where will play the same number of teams than used to play in previous tournaments. Still a lot of games to play, a lot to make cash, but not to make competition more attractive. Accepting 24 teams idea, it would have been more interesting to make 8 groups of 3 teams, with only the winner qualifying for last 8 round. This way every group match would have bigger importance and every team would have to play 2 less games than in present edition or 1 less than in previous ones. Of course, that will increase the sport level while allowing players to play less games at the end of a long season. But this idea crashes against UEFA’s economic interests.
UEFA is so focussed to increase their immediate earnings that do not care the impoverishment of the sport value of their competitions. No matter that it will undoubtedly devalue its economic value.