*Entertaining theme song, that you love the first time you hear it and then for the next thirty episodes you binge-watch before hating it with every bone in your body, plays as a man walks out. He’s dressed in a sharp white and blue suit with a mask on and the spotlight is all over him.
The cameras seem to never keep him out of their sight, which…* (Man walks over to the camera) Apologies folks for that introduction, it seems we’ve simply reused an old one. Those responsible have been sacked.
*only adds to the allure and mystique surrounding this man as the song slowly comes to an…* (Man walks over to the camera again, with a big sigh) Apologies once again folks for that. Those responsible for sacking the people who have just been sacked, have been sacked**
(Man walks over to the camera yet again) And it seems, I have to apologise yet again. Somebody thought it was funny to reuse a classic Monty Python introduction and make it work here. Everybody who was involved in sacking the people who have just been sacked who sacked those other people earlier, have been sacked as well. Let me just check and see if we’ve got another intro lined up.
(Man walks off camera, to talk to somebody off stage) Apologies, it seems that all the original and funny introductions have all been taken. All we’ve got is that mess you’ve just heard, a word of wisdom from a misanthrope or dreadful cliches which is why it appears those who were sacked by the people sacked for sacking the people who had been sacked, opted for the mess instead.
Which means now is as good time as any to start the show. So welcome one and all, to the greatest show on earth. Well, the greatest show that talks about the greatest show, where we do nothing but talk, dissect and then scrutinize football. And today’s episode is a special one. Since this is a radio show, that absolutely nobody listens to, it allows us to maintain some kind of anonymity, and yes that does mean this mask is a fashion statement.
But back to the point, because let me introduce a special guest. The last ten odd days have been filled with marvellous Champions League action, Juventus providing us with entertainment by crashing right out and Barcelona doing Barcelona things. The only real shock was the fact that PSG managed to do it all while Neymar was out “injured”. But while that was happening, off the field Andrea Agnelli has revealed his, and UEFA’s but more his, new plans for the Champions League.
Its contract runs out at the end of the 2023/24 season and thus there has been talk about something new and here to explain it is someone a part of the team. A key part, apparently or so he says and we’ve got nothing to go on but his word, and someone very very close to Agnelli’s circle. Anywhoo, without further ado let’s introduce John Doe, who asked to remain anonymous and thus picked this name instead.
*Out steps someone in black. The camera ignores the man completely as he walks onto the stage and takes his place opposite the masked host*
Host: Hello Mr Doe, or do you prefer John?
John Doe: Either is fine man, it doesn’t really matter, now does it?
Host: Very well then Mr Doe, it is lovely to have you on the show but before we get into the crux of it all, I believe you have a tape for us to listen too? Something explosive, I hope?
JD: Explosive doesn’t even come close my friend. Well, before I do play the tape, there are a few things I’ve got to put forward. One, the origin of the tape is a secret and will remain as such. Two, the voices on the tape have been masked just enough to prevent identification because these are two powerful men with the capabilities of changing a sport completely. And three, let’s start?
*The tape rolls and on it one can clearly hear two voices. The first one identifies himself as Andrea Agnelli mere seconds into the tape, while the second one has his name said into the mike by a waiter with the words N. Srinivasan meaning something to someone. The voices of two other people can be heard in the background as well but the mikes seem to ignore them with them focused on both Angelli and the man called Srinivasan.
It’s the latter man who is controlling the conversation as he goes on to reveal just how a World Cup was transformed, chopped and then changed to help make more money. Essentially, they took it apart to pieces, allowed the teams with the most broadcasting power to play a bigger role in proceedings, thus making everyone happy and content. And with that the tape clicks off*
Host: Wow, Mr Doe, you were right. Explosive doesn’t even come close to it because it seems that this Mr Srinivasan has played a key role in helping re-creating the Champions League. That is what they’re doing here, isn’t it? Trying to figure out how to keep the elite rich, while keeping the mid-table sides just where they are and at the same time trying to satisfy the world?
JD: That is exactly right man. What they..sorry, we’re trying to do is create a world where football is not just fun or entertaining once but always. And what is more fun or entertaining than watching two super elite sides battle it out for glory on a weekly basis. I mean look, right now, the post lockdown/during a pandemic footballing season has shown us that domestic football….(Asks somebody off camera a question) is crap. I mean, you’ve got two Manchester giants playing possibly the worst game of the season and fans are forced to watch Burnley face Crystal Palace. Sure, Burnley might play attractive football every now and then but that just seems wrong man. It’s what football lovers don’t want to see, what they want is something that ignites their soul and not something that sucks the joy out of everything. And right now, that is the case.
Host: Really? You actually believe that is the case across the footballing world, aka Europe, right now? The fact that fans and spectators could use more entertaining football games? Not the fact that teams are struggling financially and that the elite distributing the wealth could help them survive, thus keeping football’s essence alive?
JD: Nah man, I mean that’s exactly what Mr S was talking about on the tape. You see, he was a part of cricket’s whole thing before he left in order to make it look better on his resume and that was the entire point of the tape. You see, who cares about the Bury’s, the Norwich City’s, the Burnley’s, the Sheffield United’s, the Bolton Wanderers’ and so on? We’re here to make money and help keep people watching football keep watching football while adding more to the list. And what is the best possible way to do that?
Host: I dunno, you tell me. You’re the expert on all this after all but I’m guessing it has something to do with the Champions League?
JD: Ding, ding, ding. Give the man a prize, not literally, but that’s exactly right. You see we approached Sire Aleksander Ceferin with a plan to help make him billions or help lose him billions with us supporting the creation of that breakaway Super League. I mean, allowing that to move from a mere plan inside a megalomaniac’s head into an actual plan, would be grounds for dismissal especially when we offered UEFA the chance to make the money as well. So he took it, we “discussed” it and that saw us bring the Swiss League method into it and it really is a lovely method.
Host: So basically this, from what my research material and everything you told me before this interview, indicates that teams play quite a few games. The format says that 36 teams each play 10 games, determined by seedings, with the top eight going forward to a last 16 and the teams between ninth and 24th playing off for the other eight slots. That I believe, is essentially, a 180 games, if my math is right, to get rid of 12 teams and adds about four games to the calendar?
JD: Right again mate. Right again and with each side playing ten games, it would mean excellent football all around, all year round. What more could we ask for?
Host: What about the fixture congestion? The fact that it adds to an already jam-packed domestic and international schedule for teams? And won’t this mean that a few leagues, especially the English ones, would be forced to scrap/effectively scrap a few games and a cup competition?
JD: Let me take each question point by point. First, fixture congestion. This post lockdown/playing in a pandemic has shown us that while injuries will rise, teams are more than capable of handling the congestion by rotating their squads. It’s why we need larger squads and that’s a point I’ll get to later on but the NBA plays 82 games, pre-covid, and that’s just the regular season. And yet, their players are amongst the best athletes in the world and it is a sport that is just as physically demanding, if not even more, as football and they’re doing just fine.
Point 2, and thus 3, the domestic schedule needs to be chopped and changed down man. You know that, I know that, and everyone listening in knows that. I mean a 38 game Premier League season is just nuts, which is why our plan sees them cut it back down in size to something around 43 in total. That includes the FA Cup and the league season, which does mean an end to the League Cup. Who even plays that tournament? That’s a rhetorical question but it still applies because nobody cares or even watches. Hell, not even Tottenham fans do and they haven’t won anything for centuries.
Host: So what’s the plus point from revamping what is an already the best and most glamorous club competition in the world?
JD: Well, money. So much of money. Like an incredible amount of money. So much so that the elite will become even richer, like a lot richer and it will transform the game. And as you just mentioned, the reason why people tend to watch it is because it is the best and most glamorous club competition in the world. Which means we get the best football on show from the best teams playing which means more matches in the best club competition in the world and that’s just more awesome fun all around.
JD: And more to the point, it’s exactly what this world needs right now. The pandemic has been a dark dark time for many and the domestic leagues have made it even worse with their terrible excuse for football games. When the 2020/21 season started out, we all thought, "well finally here is something we can watch, be amazed at and be entertained at." And then that all stopped. Instead, we got a relentless showcase of mediocrity sprinkled with a few excellent games. Our goal is to switch that around and ensure by pitting the super elite together, the word mediocre disappears completely.
Host: Wow. That was enlightening and rather marvellous to listen to. Thanks John, for all that insight into the new version of the Champions League and I for one can’t wait. But before we let you go, can you let us into your hopes and dreams for the future?
JD: Why of course man, that’s rather easy. Our hope is too one day have a world where there are no triple figure transfers between Champions League participants. Instead, all we’ve got are the bigger sides buying the best and the brightest from the smaller sides within their own domestic leagues. That ensures that the best players remains at one team for the better part of their careers and it allows players like Kylian Mbappe to create a legacy. Jack Grealish, James Maddison, Rodrigo De Paul, Sandro Tonali and players like that, on the other hand, get a chance to thrive in football’s elite.
JD: Also, another goal or rather you can call it a dream is to make football into a 15 minute special, so that everyone can watch it. From that teenager who loves Tik-Tok videos, to that other teenager who loves Tik-Tok videos and even that young adult who loves Tik-Tok videos. Football becomes so much more accessible and easier to watch for them and it makes the game that much better.
JD: We’re also looking an expanding beyond this planet and into the Milky Way with the use of a white towel and something called an Infinite Improbability Drive. Not sure how that works, but I’ll be leaving in a few days to test it all out and we’re hoping for the best.
Host: Wow, that’s impressive. Your plans…
JD: Why is there a camera recording all this? I thought this was a radio show.
Host: It is. And we live stream it across all platforms, even Whatsapp with them creating a new method to do practically everything on the app. Even listen in to your conversations…and it seems our guest has fled the premises. Well, that is as good place as any to bring an end to the show. See you on the flip side!