Today’s post will be a rather unusual one. It is a direct response to a post I read. You can read it here–> http://www.goal.com/en/news/1717/editorial/2013/08/27/4215326/arsenal-should-not-be-a-pot-1-team-uefa-must-overhaul?ICID=HP_HN_1. Basically (for those who don’t have time to go through it) it is advocating for a system where Champions league seeding is done based on meritocracy. In other words you are seeded based on how far you went the previous season. As you can imagine, it is a post aimed at the Arsenal’s and Man Utd’s of this world, who have been seeded first for as long as I can remember yet haven’t even come close to winning it recently.
Let me begin by putting aside all bias (being a gooner) and examine the facts alone. I can understand the frustrations of teams such as Borussia Dortmund who have worked tirelessly to become one of the best teams in Europe, yet they aren’t seeded in the elite category. It is understandably very frustrating to be a team in the final in one season, and then the next you have to claw your way up all over again, while teams like Arsenal just need to qualify for the UCL and are automatically handed an easy route to the knock-out stages. The worst case scenario being Man Utd/Chelsea who have at one point been eliminated in the group stages, only to be seeded top the next season.
That said, the fact is if this system was adopted the Champions League would lose its value. Let me employ my business and marketing expertise to try and explain why.
This is so because football like any other sport is a business first. Football is not only just any business, it is one of the world’s biggest and most lucrative. Just look at the amounts thrown around in player wages, transfer fees, ticket and merchandise and sponsorship. Footballers are among the highest paid employees on the planet. Even CEO’s of most companies do not earn as much as they do (in terms of salaries). Taking footballer’s as commodities (which they are), show me a single commodity in any other business industry that costs 80M pounds that is not an aircraft or water vessels.
As such it follows that top brands are not necessarily the best performing CURRENTLY. The top ranked teams are Barcelona, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Man Utd, Bayern Munich and Chelsea, not necessarily in that order. Not because of their recent performances, but because they are considered the top brands in world football. This is based on their global fan base. The teams mentioned above command the lions share of the world’s fan base, probably above 70%.
Let me ease up on the marketing jargon and explain in a more simplistic manner. Considering that above 70% of the global population watch the teams I’ve mentioned above, imagine a situation where seeding was done randomly and a situation arose where none of the aforementioned teams made it past the group stages. It would probably mean that 70% of the world wouldn’t watch the UCL past the group stage. The sport would lose billions if not tens of billions of pounds in revenue, which would have financial implications that would trickle well beyond the world of football (which I will not go into). This explains why despite the fact that Real Madrid haven’t won the UCL in over a decade and Man Utd performed poorly the last 2 seasons, Real Madrid vs Man United was the most watched game on the planet last season.
Which means that UEFA and FIFA in general have the responsibility of ensuring that football is as lucrative as it can be at any given point. Even if it means enforcing rules that may favour some teams more than others. Industries (including world football) have gatekeepers and shepherds whose job is to ensure their continuity and sustenance which in this era involves making very hard decisions. The structure of UEFA seeding is one of them.
So as much as I empathize with the Dortmund’s of this world, I understand why things are as they are.
Written by: Marcus