Nations’ League further example of greed

I was asked the other day what I made of the proposal for a “Nations’ League” of some sort. I can’t say I’ve had time to read the proposal in any detail, but the idea seems to be to have a scheduled set of friendlies between European countries split into divisions, with a play-off of some sort at the end (presumably in June).

In principle, I have heard of worse ideas. However, there are two big problems that immediately strike me.

Firstly, UEFA’s  and FIFA’s main events – the European Championship and the World Cup – are already limited by the fatigue of many of the best players. Rarely do Messis or Ronaldos shine on the ultimate stage, for the quite simple reason that they are tired – after playing through the quest for the national league championship, the latter stages of the Champions’ League and an array of cup fixtures all of which probably began with a pre-season tour of the Far East or North America.

To be clear, it doesn’t matter how many zillions a week you pay players, you cannot possibly maintain a mental and physical peak 12 months a year for 15 years or so consecutively. We should in fact be trying to reduce competitive fixtures, not broaden them still further. If we want to see the best players performing at their best level at the best stage, we need fewer games before World Cups, European Championships and Champions’ League Finals, not more.

Secondly, the whole thing is bound to be a damp squib in any case (or alternatively it could in fact reduce the appeal of World Cups and European Championships, in the same way the FA’s takeover of England’s top league saw the reduction of the appeal of the FA Cup). Ultimately FIFA and UEFA can stick their noses in all they like, the fact is the clubs pay the players and poll and poll shows fans are more interested in their club than their country (this explains the relative success of the Champions’ League and the lack of interest in imposing restrictions on foreign players).

The trend is already established towards bigger countries playing bigger countries in “friendly weeks” (Germany-England, Spain-Italy and so on) and the likes of Northern Ireland being left with epic fixtures away to Cyprus and home to Malta. I suspect the final playoff series will attract the same interest as the World Club Championship. Remember that? Thought not…

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3 thoughts on “Nations’ League further example of greed

  1. Anger man says:

    I agree Ian. Give this new contest a golden shower

  2. The World Club Championship became the Club World Championship didn’t it?
    The Nation’s League is silly for a Number of Reasons…

    1. Damages Intercontinental football.

    Imagine having to wait until a World Cup is hosted in Europe until you can get a match against Brazil or Argentina here? The non-European nations often have bases here to allow their ex-pats to train and have games here. Australia, the United States, Mexico, many North African nations are utterly dependent on European based players. Europe does have the strongest most competitive confederation of any in football, but you cannot be myopic about the rest.

    2. Relies on idealistic Political stability.

    In a world where Armenia and Azerbaijan need to be kept apart in draws can really a system that could easily put them together? Or if Ukraine and Russia were to be in the same group? Does a new nation like Kosovo or Catalonia have to end up at the bottom group?

    3. Damages the International testimonial

    Imagine Gareth Bale emerging as a multi-world player of the year, and Wales end up having to have some testimonial not against England or Spain or perhaps even Scotland but against Slovakia or Iceland.

    4. Damages National development

    In the past sides like Turkey, Romania, the Republic of Ireland, Bulgaria, Greece (arguably still thereabouts), Scotland and many others have come from relative obscurity to compete decently in international tournaments because they’ve developed a few good players. At the same time the likes of France, Netherlands, England even Germany, have all had periods of decline, but would still be guaranteed elite status for a year before relegation

    5. Davis Cup of European Football risks being a Second-Tier tournament.

    So you have European Championships, FIFA World Cups and Confederation’s Cups and Olympic football if you want to throw that in as well, and now this Nation’s League is meant to try to shake up qualification? We already have had France thrown into the European qualifiers (and kept away from Spain, England, Germany and the Netherlands for some stupid reason). As seen with the bi-annual African Nations cup and with Copa America/Gold Cup tournaments having three tournaments in four years leads to some nations diminishing them, just look at Mexico and Brazil sending youth teams to the Copa America. A side could win European League Division One and get put out in the group stages of the World Cup, a side from European League Division Three might win the tournament or even get in as the host of a tournament.

    The problem is Football unlike Tennis is a Universal game, it doesn’t need a stunt like this to get attention. Qualifiers against lesser nations is all well and good to complain about, but hardly so a Russia side struggled to beat Andorra.

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