Arsenal v Celtic in play-offs. Is this what Platini wanted?

August 7, 2009

The draw for the Champions League final qualifying round raises the question whether Michel Platini and UEFA have done the right thing by giving teams from Europe’s less heralded leagues a better chance of reaching the money-spinning group stage.

On one hand, restructuring the qualifying campaign has opened the group stage doors to Latvian champions Venstpils, Cypriots APOEL Nicosia, Hungarian title holders Debrecen and Moldovans Sheriff Tiraspol.

On the other, it has pitted former European Cup winners Celtic against 2006 finalists Arsenal, with the loser confined to taking part in the Europa Liga, the continent’s second tier competition.

The new formula means the Champions League lucrative group stage will now have more champions from obscure countries on Europe’s soccer map at the expense of third and fourth-placed teams from the top leagues.

It gives unfancied teams a chance to boost their finances and close the gap on wealthier rivals, but it also runs the risk of depriving Europe’s premier club competition of some of its glamour.

Would you rather watch both Celtic and Arsenal in the Champions league proper or draw pleasure from seeing a pack of underdogs take centre stage instead?

And crucially, will the new qualifying format last long enough for the new arrivals to establish themselves as regular campaigners?

Give us your thoughts.

PHOTO: UEFA President Michel Platini gestures during a news conference at the end of the organisation’s executive committee meeting in Bucharest May 13, 2009. REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel

15 comments

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[...] to Source add it: Tags: apoel nicosia, better chance, bogdan, bucharest, campaigners, centre stage, club [...]

Having endured the SPL at close hand last year, I can assure you that Celtic\’s \”glamour\” is now limited to their famous name and support!

I would love to be proved wrong but the standard of football last season in the Scottish Premier League was the worst I\’ve watched in 20 years of attending games. The Scottish representatives in the Champs League, Rangers included, fall very much into the same category now as the \”obscure countries\” noted in your article.

The change in format from the old European Cup to the Champs League was clearly a phenomenal success attracting huge amounts of money through sponsers and television. Unfortunately, the distribution of wealth was very limited and the attempts to redress the balance are now too little too late I suspect.

The wealth and increased awareness of their worth has also given the big european teams too much power and influence. This will prevent Platini from implementing the changes he wants and gap will continue to grow.

I wouldn\’t be surprised to watch the game evolve into something like the NBA, NFL or NHL in the states where it\’s a closed shop and the same teams compete every year without fear of relegation. Of course this offers no hope of promotion either, except when an \”expansion team\” is introduced.

Quite where this leaves the rest of our teams, who knows!?

Posted by Andy | Report as abusive

i am a celtic fan and i would like to say that this is not fair on Celtic we could be sitting fairly in the group stage but no the play offs had to come this is not what i want to see arsenal are crap

Posted by Anton D'Alfonso | Report as abusive

on the other hand it is tiring to see the same old teams playing in the champions league so bring in those obscure teams – they might proved to be better than some of the third/fourth place teams of the “better” leagues.

Good to see the underdogs get a chance – CL should be for champions, so the likes of Arsenal shouldn’t even be in there.

Posted by Underdogs | Report as abusive

Andy, you are a moron. Celtic a “obscure” team? Does an obscure team qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League two of the last three years? Does an obscure team have skelps against Man U, AC Milan, Benfica, Shaktar Donetsk, Villareal, Barcelona, Liverpool, etc? Yes, Celtic collapsed at the end last year, but they have a new coach, playing a new style and have put 5 up on the champions of Africa, defeated Spurs first team with their reserves and finally got the elusive away Champions League win. But don’t let all that stand in the way of your poorly formed opinion.

Posted by Gadger | Report as abusive

The upside is that there will be more champions, the downside that some of the teams capable of upsetting the heavyweights will no longer be able to qualify. In the end, the last eight will boil down to the usual suspects and it remains to be seen whether Platini has struck the right balance. In my view, a real reform would be to slash it down to two teams per league from the top five and have champions only fill in the remaining 22 berths. This format looks more like a political compromise.

Posted by We love this game | Report as abusive

Good morning guys, Celtic fan here. I totally agree with the standard of the SPL being very poor last season but this season our team seems like a much better unit and with our new players (Fox, N’Guemo, Fortune) I believe that we’ll be strong enough to win the SPL back this season and hopefully put on a bit of a show for the supporters.

As far as Champions League goes, I think Platini’s idea is a very good one, the author of the article is asking if we would rather see Arsenal or Celtic in the Champions LEague, or draw pleasure from seeing ‘a pack of underdogs’ take centre stage.

We’ve got a very British-centric view of football on these shores and it needs to be known that the European Champions League also consists of teams that aren’t necessarily from England, Spain, Italy, France, Scotland , Portugal, Germany.

It is called the ‘Champions League’ and therefore it should consist of Champions from their respective leagues, but money dictates that the name is totally irrelevant to the tournament itself, where we have become accustomed to playing every season without question & happily pocketing the guaranteed cash that is on offer, therfore making ourselves stronger to the detriment of the other teams in our respective leagues & also teams within the lesser leagues around Europe.

If that’s how people want football to be then fair enough, but as a Celtic supporter, the supporter of a team who DID NOT merit winning their league last season(a very similar situation to the one Arsenal find themselves in) I am more than happy to be in a position to be facing a team of Arsenals stature for a place in the Champions League. I am also more than happy that the competition is giving teams from Moldova, Cyprus & Hungary the chance to appear in a competition that gives me great pride & pleasure whenever my team is involved. Imagine how their fans would feel if they managed to make it to the Groups Stage, that’s what football is really about.

Posted by Rieper | Report as abusive

As it is the ‘champions league’ then surely the competition should only be open to the champions of that particular country? As Celtic or Arsenal never even won their respective leagues (or came close to winning them) it seems, once again, that money is taken precedance over glory.

Posted by Alan Taylor | Report as abusive

Alan Taylor

or Liverpool, or Chelsea or etc etc etc….

Posted by Felix | Report as abusive

WOW, this has really got the celtic fans going!! I did like Gadger’s comments from saturday i think he’s getting a bit carried away with the fact his team have won a couple of pre-season FRIENDLIES. But on the upside they have brought in a manager who got his team relegated last season, i think the only qualification a future manager of celtic needs now a days is to be A) Irish or B) An ex player, which he falls in to the latter. The celtic board don’t really seem to throw their nets very far! But if you do have an argument against mowbry then how about this, i love the fact that a relegated manager also brings in his relegated top goal scorer of hold on… was it 7 goals.
I’m sure the employed side of Glasgow are really shaking in there work shoes.
Arsenal are maybe not the force they were a few years ago but for them to miss out on the cl is a huge blow for them. And i cant see them missing out. But then again they might fear celtic i mean they did beat a pretty mediocore Russian team. So i suppose they are world beaters now. I’ll keep the jury out until they win an away game in the group stages but it might be a long time till they get the chance to do that now. Quality and experience will come through. (That means Arsenal)

Posted by Dunoon Blue Boy | Report as abusive

Alan, football has changed and turning back the clock to the old European Cup “one team per country” format is not an option. But I agree that it is even more unacceptable to have 18 teams from the top five leagues in the group stage, invariably the same outfits one season after another.

Posted by Red Devil | Report as abusive

WOW, haven’t the celtic fans got a bit excited about this. Lets put this in to perspective, they have won a couple of meaningless friendlies, unconvincingly. They have brought in a manager of no quality who got his team relegated, bought a couple of unknown & untried players. And they have won there first away game in europe for over 6 years. (Lets be honest that wouldn’t of been difficult). I’m sure the employed half of Glasgow will be shaking in there work shoes and i don’t think there cl opponents will be either. The Europa Leauge is probably there standard, C’mon Celtic leave the cl to the big boys!!

Posted by Dunoon blue boy | Report as abusive

Personally, although I am an Arsenal fan myself, I am also a fan of watching football at the highest level, and until the World Cup or the European Championships comes around, I really enjoy watching the Champions League, as well as the blessing that is the Premier League.

To some extent, I agree with a lot of the collective opinions here – the Champions League should probably be for Champions, as it is only fair on the winners of all leagues across Europe, and it means that teams from lower-ranked associations have a chance to gain much-needed profits, and this could quite literally spread the wealth of football.

However, I look at teams like BATE Borisov, CFR Cluj and Anorthosis Famagusta, the debutant teams from last season, and, although they put up a good fight and gave some good performances against top sides, they still finished bottom of each of their respective groups. This clearly states to me that these teams are a little out of their depth when playing against the likes of Liverpool, Barcelona and Roma, none of whom finished top of their respective leagues the previous season, but still qualified from their groups, one can see that clubs like these deserve to be allowed into the competition, to make sure that there is an even playing field, and that it’s not the same teams winning it all the time.

For a team like Arsenal, people may flame about how crap we are and how we haven’t won a trophy in 5 seasons, but honestly, I don’t really care, I still enjoy watching my team play, because they play fantastic football – no matter what anybody says about trophies, they play beautiful football, and I support that wholly. Now, don’t you think that if you didn’t see teams like Arsenal playing (and yes, this demographic includes Celtic, because I still think they’re a good team, despite the SPL’s comparative lack of financial backing to other leagues), then you’d miss out a bit? Watching exciting football is what European competition is all about, and if we keep the tournament the way it is (or was last season, you decide), then this gives the competition the opportunity to really shine and continue to draw in the amazing support it gets.

There we go, there’s my two cents (Euro cents, mind – I’m in Berlin).

Posted by Nick | Report as abusive

Football is all about passion. That’s what the old Champions Cup had. The champion from each country playing another champion. You have to be your best on the game day. After two legs you are either in or out. A single game back then had much more in stake. You didn’t just play for your rich Russian or Arab owners. It wasn’t only about entertainment or glamour (the word Zoran used). It was more about passion. You represented your club, city and country. We need some of that passion back. And I am totally with Platini on this one. It is nice to see the best clubs competing, but myself supporting a club from an “obscure” league I would be more passionate following the club I support than being entertained by some more glamorous players while munching popcorn and sipping on my beer. Real Madrid have already tried that with the Galacticos. Haven’t achieved much. Not much passion. No identity. Is football to them all about selling merchandise to hundreds of millions of fans around the world? Is that why we have to watch Arsenal-Celtic in the group stage? Because revenues will be higher and it will fill the pockets or rich Russians and Arabs? I’d rather see Arsenal-Celtic fight a battle in a two legged qualifying round in which everything is at stake.
And fans from Hungary, Latvia, Israel will get some of that passion back when their clubs make it. To them football will not some entertainment show they only see on TV. They will get to participate in person. Will get a chance to be passionate about Europe’s top competition. This is a world game, not only for those privileged living in “unobscure” countries.

Posted by Banepfc | Report as abusive

I’m so glad the underdogs are finally granted what is rightfully theirs! Debrecen,Apoel Nicosia etc. are CHAMPIONS, and that means they should campaign in the CHAMPIONS League, full stop… why should these sides be left behind? After all, the likes of Berbatov, Vidic, Yaya Toure etc. were refined by so called smaller clubs. So are we saying that some clubs are only good for producing players and that’s where their work ends? Well Done Mr. Platini, at least UEFA has a man favouring fairplay as president!

Posted by Kayy | Report as abusive