Michel Platini’s strategy to allow smaller nations access to UEFA competitions is already in motion as seen with the expansion of the European Championships to 24 teams. However, this could extend to European Club Competitions also with the UEFA members discussing a possible “third-tier” European Cup below the Europa League.
A “third-tier” European Cup available to smaller nations was highly praised by many who saw it as an opportunity for teams to participate in a European Tournament for more than just the two to four games of the Qualifying Rounds before being knocked out by bigger opposition. In the Welsh Premier League for example, the prospect of European Football is highly sought after. The league’s only full time team The New Saints reached the second qualifying round which is the furthest for many years a team from Wales has managed. The addition of a competition for teams such as this would only boost the development of them and create more competitive leagues within Europe.
However, the stumbling block could be the financial obligations tied to such a tournament. As many teams participating would be Semi-Professional or small Full-Time teams, the sheer cost of travel may force the tournament to be regionalised to save on cost. Aberdeen’s 9,000 mile round trip to Kairat in Kazakhstan highlights how even smaller teams within the Europa League struggle with massive travel costs not only to themselves but to their travelling fans.
As this is unlikely to come to any solid plan until the current TV deal expires in 2018, UEFA have sufficient time to see if this is financially viable or not. Regardless of whether this comes to fruition or not, the fact of the matter is smaller teams are getting left behind by the big commercial powerhouses dominating Europe and any move to opening up the pot to these teams will only aid with the development of European Football and domestic leagues.