The underperformance of English teams in the Champions League in recent seasons is a sad indictment of the state of the English game. While the Premier League can boast the greatest marketing pull of any of the top European leagues, its lack of success in recent times in European competitions may have drastic consequences.
The recent disappointing form of Premier League teams in the knockout stages could see Italy usurp England and nab the fourth qualification spot. The dominance once held by English clubs has now passed, and it is a genuine concern that, should Premier League clubs fail to replicate strong domestic showings in Europe, Serie A will be awarded an extra participant at the expense of us.
It is all based on UEFA’s co-efficient rating system. The resurgence of Italian football has been well documented. With Juventus’ run to the final last season, and the protracted transfer saga involving their talisman midfielder Paul Pogba, England can no longer claim to be the cream of Europe. The Premier League now seems far removed from the days when, between 2004 and 2012, it had a representative in the final in seven out of eight seasons.
Should English teams fail to deliver this season the Premier League would lose its fourth participant. Given the poor start to this season’s group stages in which Chelsea were the only side to register a win, this has presented a stark reminder ofthe dangers they face. Should, in the coming years, they find themselves a team light, it severely damages the entire model on which the Premier League is based.
The debate over the quality of the Premier League in relation to other European leagues has been both long and hard fought. It may be the most watched league in the world, yet in recent times it has found itself coming up short where it counts. A serious amount of money from TV rights is set to be lost should the Premier League lose its fourth team in the Champions League. The Premier League would see its marketing dominance falter while clubs may struggle to attract players on the assumption that European football would come with it.
While some may argue that only three places would re-energise the competition and make the league more competitive, in reality it will mean that the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur may miss out. Gone are the days when it was a given we that would see Premier League teams competing for club football’s greatest prize, and it seems they are further adrift than ever before.
It should be noted that this would only occur should we see a repeat of Premier League sides failing to get past the last-16, and Juventus, Napoli and Fiorentina repeating their feats of getting to the Champions League final and Europa League semi-finals respectively. Nonetheless, it draws attention to an underlying issue within English football: mediocrity. For Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City to stumble at the first hurdle does not bode well.
The new co-efficient rankings, calculated over a five-year period, have drawn attention to our failures in European football. Not since Chelsea’s incredible victory in 2012 and Europa League success in 2013 have we seen an English team come close to silverware in Europe. It is a worrying precedent that needs to be addressed or the repercussions will be costly.
Image courtesy of Il biscione e l’fc Internazionale III.