20 February 2010

Scotland's Co-Inefficient

Disaster! As if Scotland losing its automatic Group stage spot in next season's Champions' League (though it will be restored should the winners of this season's tournament have gained Group Stage qualification anyway), we now learn that for the 2011-12 Champions' League, there will be only one Scottish entrant, starting in the Second Qualifying Round (though should Scotland remain in 16th place on the rankings, that will, again, move to the Third Qualifying Round if the 2011 winners have already qualified), and that further to that, fourth place in the SPL won't qualify for European competition.

Of course, this all stems from the catastrophic campaigns this season. Motherwell did manage to live up to their seeded status in the First and Second Qualifying Rounds of the Europa League, only to meet stronger opposition in the Third. Aberdeen failed miserably to live up to their seeded status, while Hearts lived down to their unseeded status in the Fourth Qualifying Round. Celtic did at least win the Champions' League Third Qualifying Round tie against Dinamo Moscow as expected to on paper, but Arsenal were always going to prove a bridge too far. However, had they lived up to their Europa League Pot 2 status, they would have been playing a game on Thursday. Similarly, had Rangers lived up to their Champions' League Pot 2 status, they'd have a Last 16 tie to get excited about. Instead, they couldn't even get third place, and a spot in the Europa League knockout stages.

So in theory, while it may mean more games, the down-grading of Scotland's status looks like a temporary setback: for 2010-11, both sides of the Old Firm would most likely be seeded in the Third Qualifying Round, while the SPL winners will be seeded in the Fourth Qualifying Round. The runners-up would not be, but would be guaranteed a Group Stage of some description by then. By winning those games, they would add vital points to the all-important co-efficient.

The SPL winners would almost certainly be in Pot 3 of the Champions' League (Rangers may still be able of nipping into Pot 2, but it's too early to know for sure) and the SPL runners-up would be in Europa League Pot 2: both good for post-Christmas European football and yet more co-efficient points. The remaining teams - are probably in a position to get a favourable draw for the Second Qualifying Round of the Europa League, and may get one for the following round depending on who qualifies and at what stage. The Fourth Qualifying Round may be a bridge too far, but with at least one team likely to win at least one tie, that again sees the co-efficient creep up a little.

Similarly, for 2011-12, one would expect the SPL winners to walk the three Qualifying Round ties and reach the Group Stage in Pot 3 - so a spot in the Europa League Round of 32, and perhaps even Round of 16, beckons on paper. The SPL runners-up would be expected to sail through their two Europa League Qualifiers and reach the Group Stage in Pot 2. Again, good for the Round of 32. While the team joining the SPL Runners-Up in the Third Qualifying Round has a chance of getting a good draw and advancing one stage, and whoever qualifies for the Second Qualifying Round must surely get past that, and maybe a stage more, depending again on who reaches Europe.

So on paper, the reduced ranking may actually be good for Scotland: more games against easier teams, so more wins and more co-efficient points.

But as the cliche goes, games aren't played on paper. Firstly, no Scottish club managed to exceed expectations this season. Rangers fell well short of what the draw projected; Celtic initially ticked the necessary boxes but still missed out on the likely final target of the Europa League Round of 32; Hearts weren't really expected to progress out of the EL Fourth Qualifying Round and didn't; Aberdeen failed to get past an unseeded team; Falkirk couldn't beat a team relegated from the Swiss League (which now overtakes Scotland on the rankings) while Motherwell went as far as the seeding structure allowed them. On average, therefore, one would expect a Scottish club to fall one level short of what's expected.

So next year, the SPL Champions might well get to the Group Stage even without the aid of a technicality, but they'll be lucky to be playing in the Europa League after Christmas. The Runners-up will fall into the Europa League and, again, will be unlikely to get past the Group Stage. As for the others, the most positive likely outcome that can be projected is that the team joining proceedings in the Fourth Qualifying Round will lose with dignity to a team considerably higher up the rankings.

The bottom line is this: unless Scottish clubs can start meeting expectations, and in the current financial climate that looks difficult, then those expectations are bound to be lowered. It might be a lean couple of years...


Mr Eugenides said...

Thank you, Bert Kassies...

Will said...

Or not, as the case may be. He's damned good at what he does, but I'm finding his results somewhat depressing of late...

western european super league said...

My idea for football is the western European Super league.
So instead of the old firm joining the English premier league they could create a new league with countries in Western Europe outside of the big leagues in England, Spain, Germany, France and Italy.
Have half the season as the Scottish league but cut it to 22 matches a year then have the second half as a European super league., with promotion and relegation.

This league would give an opportunity for smaller countries to play in bigger leagues, while keeping their own national leagues running, so not destroying their own leagues.