Date: 16th August 2016 at 6:15pm
Written by:

It might seem the oddest of questions but the night before Celtic take on Hapoel Beer Sheva is it time to think beyond the ‘Champions League’ ?

Reports over the last 24 hours suggest that the revamp scheduled for December will be another major concession towards the bigger leagues leaving clubs like Celtic, Ajax and Benfica to play the role of cuddly toy providing an emotional link to the glory days of the competition.

According to the latest well placed leaks the top four clubs from the top four nations will get automatic entry to the group phase taking their representation up from nine to sixteen.

Lurking not too far in the background is the threat of clubs being given a group stage place based on historical merit which is the method of ensuring that Manchester United and AC Milan are presented to the television advertisers- season after season regardless of their domestic form.

With the new BT Sport deal and no sign of Manchester United or Chelsea in this seasons competition the new broadcasters are getting twitchy over their investment. Leicester, Spurs and even Manchester City carry little of the appeal of the 2008 finalists.

The original European Cup concept has been under threat now for the best part of 20 years with the creation of an eight team Champions League the first step away from tradition.

An eight team tournament was way too risky with expansion to 16 and 32 teams allowing in teams that finish as low as fourth place taking part in the ‘Champions League’.

With prize money distributed towards the clubs that are already richest the gulf between the champions of Scotland, Holland, Belgium and Portugal has widened.

At every step the tournament is designed towards producing the same faces, clubs and players being involved in the latter stages with only some crumbs being thrown at the feet of clubs like Celtic for making up the numbers it could be the right time to reassess the European footballing model.

Being rewarded for giving the tournament credibility as the big money is increasingly centralised seems almost pointless.

Celtic Park has hosted many great European nights, it’s an arena that still makes the competition special but as those evenings become rarer and rarer it’s perhaps time to think of a new competition, a new format, where footballing excellence rather than economics is the goal.