We have something of a unique situation in the UK, with four separate footballing governing bodies lumped into one big TV deal. Welsh and Northern Irish teams don’t get far enough in qualifying to get any serious money from the big Champions League pot while obviously both ourselves and Rangers have had plenty of the Scottish cut.
But here’s where the confusion comes. If our TV deal is the exact same deal as the English teams have, and our domestic competitions suffer the same restrictions even if all our teams are out and it’s just the English teams left, why then don’t we get the same cut from the Champions League money that the English teams do?
Now, I’m not suggesting that Celtic and Rangers deserve the same money as Man United and Chelsea. The way the money works in the tournament is the further you go and the more wins you get along the way, the more money you’ll get. That’s fair enough, I completely agree that the money should be results based. However, there’s also a multiplier that is tied to your country’s coefficient. The higher rated your country, the more money you get per win.
Or to put that another way, if Celtic beat Arsenal we get less money than Arsenal get if they beat Celtic.
How is that fair on us? It’s the same TV audience generating the money. We have to sit and watch the biased English coverage – nothing wrong with that as they’re supporting their country’s representatives – just as much as everyone else in the UK. If anything, Arsenal’s achievement of beating us – a lower ranked team by UEFA’s own measures – is less noteworthy than our achievement of beating them, yet their reward is higher.
The problem is perpetual as well. Arsenal can already afford better wages than us and so attract better players. They’ll continue to win with the better players and so continue to get the bigger money in as they continue to be among the best in Europe. No one else can compete without outside interference – buyers from Russia, the US or the middle east for instance. And of course those buyers are more interested in the big leagues, so the problem snowballs.
So here we are, Celtic fans, paying money to watch our team on Sky Sports (and ESPN). Sky are using that money to help them buy the Champions League packages that UEFA in turn use to fill the coffers of the English teams – much more than our coffers – that they then reportedly use to offer the stars of Celtic’s season like Izaguirre and Kayal wages we can only dream of.
The real issue is the power the big clubs have. The Champions League is in the format it is today because that’s the format the big clubs wanted. If UEFA even suggested changing things to try and balance the money properly, those clubs would threaten a breakaway to form their own European League. They’ve done it before as G14 after all. So maybe the stitch up isn’t UEFA’s fault. Maybe they’re as stuck with this setup as we are. Even if they have less inclination to try and get it changed.
Then there is UEFA’s refusal to get involved in domestic matters when the SFA continue to go unchecked in their inability to run the game in Scotland in a transparent and fair manner…
But that’s a story for another day.