Reduced prices, low attendance, rotated teams and disinterest from broadcasters. Like sprouts at Christmas, the League Cup happens... yet no-one really knows why. The FA Cup is little better.

Viewing figures for the FA Cup Final in May peaked at 9.2M. The romance of the cup is a little more erotic than your average episode of Strictly. If you’re not in it, does anyone care?

The FA Cup and League Cup used to resonate their own position in the game. The former just as prized as the Football League Championship trophy itself. But, with money having its effect on the sport like so many others, how trophies resonate is replaced by a mere categorisation of importance. To be an actual winner of a domestic trophy is now irrelevant to what was once thought as a decent finish. Top 4 is everything.

Champions League involvement gives you the money, the best players and thus continued qualification. The rules of qualification stifle the domestic scene and the resulting elite carry-on regardless. In fact, qualification is so pivotal for a continuation of their dominance that, in 2005 it was arguably more important for Liverpool to qualify for the following season than it was to win the trophy itself.

Another benefit is it can give you clout to get the rules changed.

My suggestion? Pull the carpet from under the money clubs and give Champions League spots to domestic cup winners. It will break the glass ceiling of a two-tier Premier League and let the cups resonate once again.

Is there a problem? The ruling bodies may say there is no appetite for this, that it’s best for English football that we have our strongest representatives in Europe.

No. The same teams qualifying each year means it's best for them, not English football. And why should a European competition take precedence to the detriment of the domestic game?

The effect of this cup-wining lottery of qualification is that the top players will no longer know which teams they should or should not play for. When you go back to the days of two Champions League spots, Asprilla and Ginola signed for Newcastle; Ravenelli and Juninho for Middlesboro; Bergkamp for Arsenal; Zola and Vialli for a small club in West London. All signings that represented an aspiration to help a club succeed, not piggy-back on automatic success that reaped trophies with or without them. Those elite clubs in their ivory towers will be cast into the new and tragic surroundings of parity!

If you’re not already sold, one thing would remain a constant – the Champions of England would always qualify for the Champions League. And if our domestic league and cups benefit by the spoils of Europe going to real winners, not the richest losers, why should this not happen?

(There is of course a matter of that final 4th Champions League berth up for grabs. I like the idea of a three-match post-season play-off in Asia for the four highest placed teams who haven’t already qualified. This could go down as far as 7th, and perchance put those 39th league game rumours to bed.)

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Derek Thomas
1 Posted 26/09/2014 at 08:00:13
Fair enough points, Nick, but you should know by now that the turkeys NEVER vote for Christmas... and on the off chance that they might, the owners of the turkeys won't even give them the option.
Tony Abrahams
2 Posted 26/09/2014 at 10:49:39
I bet you over half the teams in the Champions League haven't won a domestic honour in the last three years?

It's a bit like George Osbourne spreading the wealth, it's just not going to happen!

Anthony Lewis
3 Posted 26/09/2014 at 11:39:43
Like it, I'm sold... Where do I vote?
Jim Knightley
4 Posted 26/09/2014 at 11:50:59
If worse teams enter the Champions League from England, then we will perform more badly nationally. If, for example, Swansea managed to win a cup, then got drawn against Bilbao in qualifiers (they'd get a harder team because they'd have no coefficient), they'd probably get knocked out and we'd have less teams competing in the CL that year. If the quality and performances dilutes, then so will the countries coefficient, risking the country's fourth Champ League spot in the process.

I think the league qualification process is the most fair, because it rewards teams for their progress across a season. What would happen to league football if first and second only mattered for CL qualification? We'd get better cup football for sure, but the lifeblood of the top flight: the league, would suffer as a result.

Who would get Europa League? We'd be in a position, under this scenario, where a cup final could determine CL places and Europa League places for teams not necessarily involved in that final.

Football's not fair, but giving CL places to domestic cup winners would ruin the league. We'd go from resting players against Swansea in the cup, to resting players in the league, because the cup matches are now more important.

If we want to make the cup games more attractive then divert additional prize money to the competitions, especially the Capital One Cup. Again though, it would not change things. The biggest teams with the biggest squads are best equipped to challenge on all fronts, and giving them a reason to put out better teams in the Capital One Cup will simply give less of a chance to the rest.

Matt Traynor
5 Posted 26/09/2014 at 12:01:20
It’s certainly a better idea than anything the Prem has come up with, with the 39th league game baloney. I especially like the idea of the play-off for the 4th CL berth, and give the Europa place(s) available to 2nd, and maybe 3rd.

I fear though that if this did happen, all it would mean is the bigger clubs would take more of an interest in both domestic cups, and through amazing coincidences, they’d keep apart from each other until the semi-finals (which would be a shot in the arm for the dwindling TV audiences and sponsor cash).

Dick Fearon
6 Posted 26/09/2014 at 12:13:55
Nick, yours is a great idea, if only it could happen.

As for it not helping England's national teams chances of success, all I can say is what success is that?

John Daley
7 Posted 26/09/2014 at 12:11:03
"Asprilla and Ginola signed for Newcastle; Ravenelli and Juninho for Middlesboro; Bergkamp for Arsenal; Zola and Vialli for a small club in West London. All signings that represented an aspiration to help a club succeed, not piggy-back on automatic success that reaped trophies with or without them. Those elite clubs in their ivory towers will be cast into the new and tragic surroundings of parity"

All the aforementioned players signed for their clubs with hearts full of the purest altruism, and their professional pride piqued by the thought of pushing underperforming clubs to the Premier League pinnacle? Their pockets be damned?

Ravenelli, for example, rejected Everton after previously signing for 'Boro, not because Howard's breath stunk of Bacardi a bit too early that morning or because he bought into 'Pop' Robson's project. Nope. It was simply because they were prepared to stuff a shitload of fazoos into fat Luca Brazi's (massive mammoth sized) waistband, and Everton subsequently failed to measure up.

The main criteria in a player making a move is the amount of cash a club is prepared to cough up. Always has been, always will be. Look at Man Utd, no European football on offer at all, no chance of challenging for the Premier League this season, yet still able to recruit world class players of pedigree like Di Maria and Falcao in the summer, simply because they were still able to wave an astronomical wad in their agents' faces.

Matt Traynor
8 Posted 26/09/2014 at 12:50:02
Jim #4, I may be mistaken, and will stand to be corrected, but I think the amount of money the TV rights are sold for in respective companies has "something" to do with the number of slots. I am absolutely sure that it affects the prize money pot (which is why the winner sometimes earns less than than teams that didn't make the final).

For sure if the allocation for English clubs was to drop to 3, it would weaken the price of the TV rights, and UEFA wouldn't want that at all.

Mike Allison
9 Posted 26/09/2014 at 15:34:11
Swansea wouldn't win the League Cup Jim, because all the big teams would be taking it extremely seriously. This plan is good, but it wouldn't really see different teams in the Champions League, it would see the richest teams taking the domestic cups a lot more seriously, with the occasional interloper of a team who would normally finish only 5th or 6th.
Harold Matthews
10 Posted 26/09/2014 at 15:56:21
I wouldn't fancy any changes. Never been fond of cup competitions. Too much luck involved. We also remember lowly Wigan hammering full strength Everton and City teams to win the FA Cup. Definitely no luck involved on this occasion but does it make them more deserving than the team finishing 4th in the Premier League? Not in my book.

Football has changed. Top 4 is the big one these days...... with no farcical play-off for 4th place thank you very much. Yes, it heavily favours the money boys but that's what makes it so exciting for a club like Everton.

Andy Crooks
11 Posted 26/09/2014 at 18:09:48
Good article, Nick. At the very least I'd give the FA cup winners a Champions League place. I can remember when cup final day, even when Everton weren't in it, was always special. Watch the teams leaving the hotel, it's a Cup final knock out, abide with me and then support the underdog.

The value of the cup would mean it being taking seriously by every club. It would be our best chance of making some money. I recall listening to the draw on Monday at lunchtime knowing that the season might hinge on it. I find the Champions League without personal involvement as dull as ditch water. Let's have a cup that counts.

Duncan McDine
12 Posted 26/09/2014 at 18:49:43
I love the idea, there was a very similar idea discussed on Talksport not long ago, but it seems what UEFA really want is a European League with all the big money clubs playing eachother a many times as possible. To me it seems rediculous that Champions of certain lesser European leagues have to play 2 or 3 qualifyers to get into the ’Champions League’!
Gavin McGarvey
13 Posted 26/09/2014 at 21:06:21
I love cup football. There's nothing like the 3rd round of the FA Cup if you can make it along. I can't see the FA Cup being given a Champions League place however. It's all about money now and the whole system now is designed to keep the same teams in CL year-in & year-out.

If it's more important to be in it again next year than to win it, you can see something's wrong. Can you imagine the equivalent situation in the FA cup? No. It's absurd. Unfortunately I can't see it changing. Nice if it would. Would our board even vote for it?

Eric Holland
14 Posted 26/09/2014 at 23:01:31
Mike #9

Spot on.
Same old teams every year winning the cups , So no trophies at all for the rest.

Andy Crooks
15 Posted 27/09/2014 at 00:52:10
So, Eric, you really want us to pick up a trophy that the rich clubs leave to the rest of us? I'd rather win against the best. Win the FA cup the way it was the last time we won it.
Dennis Ng
16 Posted 27/09/2014 at 01:23:10
I don’t see how this will help. Spenders gonna just get a bigger squad and rotate the hell out of the players to win all the cups and keep the league positions. There will be a few slipups we can bank on but not many. And that’s assuming we’re not the one slipping up.
Mike Childs
17 Posted 27/09/2014 at 11:47:24
I could go for a tournament where say the 5 th and 6 th place finishers in the the leagues getting together for a win or go home tournament where the two finalists get into the CL. Because as already stated the money clubs would just take the cups more seriously.

I am with you Nick that something needs to be done to break the glass ceiling. Something also has to be done with the draws too BVD vs. Arsenal every year it seems. AC Milan vs. Barca, City vs. Bayern and United always getting a cream puff draw when they're in it.

Jack Cross
18 Posted 27/09/2014 at 19:09:19
Well the unfairness is that after a team gets knocked out of the CL they drop down in to the Europa cup. In my opinion that shouldn’t be the case if you get in to the CL and are knocked out well that should be it for that season. Then maybe clubs like ourselves would be in with more of a chance.
Nick Entwistle
19 Posted 28/09/2014 at 08:48:56
Jim, you're right. The league process is most fair. But then again it is not. Qualification perpetuates qualification. The same five teams will qualify year-in & year-out.

Put it this way: if you're in a cycle race and the top 4 of each race can put an engine on their bike, who's going to finish top 4 in the next race? It is not coincidence that 52 out of 54 top 4 places have gone to the same teams.

And on the hypothetical reduction to three teams, is that really a concern? Is that tournament so much a concern that we should protect the dominance of five teams and not our domestic game that has lost its soul and the league title is a shut-out?

If you want to give greater prize money to the cups to make them important, the only way is to have that money come from the CL.

John, yes Ravanelli took the cash, and that has to be factored into practically every transfer going, but it remained they had to help a team succeed to get a prize. Today, those players wouldn't come to those clubs because they're non-CL, and its because of the CL that these teams can't compete on wages.

Would the cups always go to the big teams? If people are offering that as reason to not change anything, then isn't it admitting defeat?

Without guaranteed CL and FFP rules hitting, a level of parity can be restored to football whereas the CL is just a golden goose for five teams who have taken competition out of the game.

Eric Holland
20 Posted 28/09/2014 at 09:31:00
@Andy 15,

Isn't that what happens now? ... and most don't take it seriously anyway.

Colin Glassar
21 Posted 28/09/2014 at 10:03:34
In this day and age of multi-billion £ TV deals, multi-millionaire footballers, foreign oligarchal ownership, super agents co-owning footballers (and to a degree clubs), corrupt governing bodies i.e. FIFA and, to a lesser extent, UEFA, match fixing etc..... I could go on. Does anyone really think the "authorities" are interested in protecting and enhancing the game?

I've been saying for years (ever since the Bosman ruling) football is heading for a cataclysmic collapse similar to the crash of 1929. The game is rotten to the core, it is top heavy, ruled by corrupt men in Switzerland who's shortsightedness is akin to that of Neville Chamberlain's in 1938.

The game is run by a criminal gang similar to to the American mafia and its five families. They aren't interested in reform or spreading the wealth. They want to keep power and power alone.

Nick Entwistle
22 Posted 28/09/2014 at 12:59:13
Colin, I'm pretty sure the qualification system for CL is made by the PL. They have the power to change that to any system they want. Maybe by putting it to a vote of the clubs, maybe not. But I used to think it would never happen due to the brand names of PL football, if losing dominance would see overseas fans change allegiance to another league and diminish the contracts. Liverpool out of the CL for four years or so hasn't done that.

As for corrupt governing bodies, what has the FA got on Uefa whereby Wembley got two CL finals in a row and now two semis and the final in the Euros 2020? Something is going on, I'm sure...

Colin Glassar
23 Posted 28/09/2014 at 13:31:14
Nick, the Premier League is set up to preserve and maintain the status quo. It's dominated by a few super rich clubs funded by Sky. Remember a few years ago the threat by the group of 15 to form a breakaway super league? Scudamore is a hostage to these interests and is unable, and unwilling, to challenge this.

Former powerhouses like Everton, Aston Villa, Wolves, Leeds Utd, Sheffield Wed even Spurs don't have a chance to break into this exclusive club unless some billionaire comes along which with FFP makes it increasingly unlikely.

I love football but I hate all the sordid baggage attached to the modern game.

Paul Tran
24 Posted 28/09/2014 at 13:45:27
Nick, this is a good argument that puts the life back into the cups and the hope back into those clubs who are the anointed few. It is up to the PL, but they would presumably get leaned on by Uefa and Sky. I'd rather see us win a trophy, even better if it led to a European place.

I'd go further and get rid of all this group nonsense in the European cups, but then football these days is about overloaded manufactured excitement, rather than the real thing.

Nick Entwistle
25 Posted 28/09/2014 at 13:55:56
It was perfect the way it used to be, three European trophies, that like the domestics resonated their own importance, regardless of where you would rank them.

As a return to that isn't going to happen, I'd prefer to see one large European knock out tournament. 7 English teams would go into the hat. All games unseeded and excitement throughout. Plus, the 'smaller' nations' champions not pissed on and demoted to no more than a Europa preliminary.

That's midweek European football I would watch. Well actually I wouldn't as CL is on BT next year.

At least in our own small way watching games via links on t'internet is two fingers up to the powers that be. Take that governing bodies! Oh what, you're too busy setting the time on your 㾼,000 watches? Fair enough.


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