The State of English Club Football
May 21, 2019
Most Championships: Man United, 20
Last 5 Winners: Man City (18/19, 17/18), Chelsea (16/17, 14/15), Leicester City (15/16)
UEFA Ranking: 2nd
Highest Ranked Club: Man City, 6th
After this season in Europe, is there a feeling in England that they have without doubt the best league in the world?
Yes, but I wouldn’t say that it is due to success in the Champions League and Europa League. The sense I get is that the results this season have only confirmed what many feel they know to be true, anyway.
Have the last few years been seen as a disappointing time for English football? Only one English team has won the CL in the last 11 years.
I wouldn’t say so. Leicester City’s win in 2016 was great in its own way, and very enjoyable for neutrals, even if it probably only came about due to a weakness among the top clubs that year.
How seriously is the EL taken by the English clubs that enter the competition?
Depends on the club. Arsenal have taken it seriously two years in a row now because they have to. Top four is harder than ever.
Burnley and Everton in the last two years have shown where the priorities lie for sides who never really had Champions League football down as a tangible objective to secure their business models, rather than dreams that require miracles.
I think this ultimately relegates the Europa League to being seen as a glorified qualification series for next year’s Champions League though.
What reaction has there in England to Europa League 2 and the new proposed changes to the CL?
The tone of the reaction has been what I tried to single out in my first answer: ‘Of course we have two teams in the final of the Europa League. We’re the best league in the world. It would have happened sooner if our teams had taken it seriously. Look at Fulham!’
As I said above, I don’t think either club would have invested resources into winning it without Champions League qualification as a prize. See also: Manchester United under Jose Mourinho.
Do most of the country get behind the English sides playing in Europe or is there still a lot of tribalism apparent?
Not in my experience. Arsenal fans will cheer on Liverpool not because they’re an English side but because Spurs are their rivals, and vice versa with the Europa League, especially given that Chelsea have already qualified for the Champions League so cheering them on doesn’t really increase the threat they pose to Tottenham next season, whereas fans can cheer on a different rival in the hope that the Gunners miss out next season.
In the previous round, Arsenal fans were cheering on Ajax, Spurs fans were cheering on Valencia. It is the same dynamic as what we saw in the Premier League with Manchester United fans lending their support to Manchester City beating Liverpool. It’s what you could call football’s version of tactical voting.
The only difference was when Leicester City were in the knockout rounds of the Champions League. I think Spurs could enjoy a similar benefit from fans of clubs that don’t have skin in the game with regards to rivalries this season, but that too could come out of appreciation as a neutral or distaste at Liverpool winning it.
What would you like to see UEFA do to level the playing field more for the smaller European sides?
Get rid of these new proposals for a Champions League format even more suited to the richest clubs.
You can’t reverse the changes that have happened to split European football into the haves and have nots though. Any real attempts to wind the clock back would see the richest break off to form the Super League they keep threatening.
Maybe in the extreme long-term, that would be the best for everyone, assuming a more egalitarian but impoverished UEFA, and national leagues, survive and carry on playing competitive continental football. The sad reality is that the teams ‘left behind’ would be at risk of becoming nursery clubs, B teams in all but name, out of financial necessity as much as anything else. I am not hopeful about the next stages in consolidation of capital in European football and its effects.
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Author: Tom Mortimer
Tom is the editor at Betting Circle and has been creating online content for over 10 years. Tom mainly writes about sport and gambling, but every now and then also delves into fleshier subjects like politics and psychology. When he was 18 he created HungarianFootball.com and over the last few years he's written on a freelance basis for ESPN, WorldSoccer, Goal.com, among many others.