OPINION: Any idea that sees the Champions League final staged outside Europe should be a non-starter

UEFA's current president has raised the possibility that it could happen some day

BY Raf Diallo 16:59 Monday 24 October 2016, 16:59 24 Oct 2016

Detail of the official UEFA Champions League matchball on it's plinth before the game. Picture by: John Walton / EMPICS Sport

"I think it might be an idea in future but we have to speak about it. To go from Portugal to Azerbaijan for example is almost the same or the same as if you go to New York. For the fans it's no problem but we should see. It's a European competition so let's think about it."

That European competition that newly installed UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin was referring to in his exclusive interview with The Associated Press is the Champions League, as he remained open to one day staging its final on other continents.

He is correct to note that the 6,000 kilometres it takes to get from Portugal to Azerbaijan is not too dissimilar to the distance it takes to swim from New York to Ireland.

Why New York though? Well, it's one of the possible locations that the final could be moved to if UEFA one day decide to accept the most lucrative bids to stage the showpiece outside European football's boundaries.

One would imagine some of the wealthy oil-rich Gulf regimes that have already sought to host some of the world's other major sports events would be eyeing up the opportunity to add Europe's flagship club football final to their portfolios.

At present, the boundaries of European football as presided over by UEFA run from the Iberian peninsula to Ireland, all the way to Iceland and the Faroe Islands, then across to Scandinavia and Russia.

It takes in Kazakhstan, the Caucuses, Turkey, Israel and the Mediterranean islands.

Beyond that, the football world is divided between CONCACAF for North and Central America, CAF for Africa and so on so forth.

Each of those Confederations has its own version of a Champions League for individual countries' leading teams, with South America's Copa Libertadores the most prestigious after UEFA's flagship tournament.

Admittedly, the way globalisation has affected football as the decades have progressed means the vast majority of the world's best players do not feature in the Copa Libertadores, CAF Champions League or other equivalents.

They almost exclusively all play in Europe, with young players cherry-picked from South America in particular before local fans have seen them blossom to their full potential.

Aleksandar Ceferin

That is unfair on fans based in those parts of the world. No one can deny the disproportional nature of the imbalance.

But let's be clear. If the European Champions League final moved towards those parts of the globe, one would probably be right to imagine that the decision made by power brokers wouldn't be made as an act of kindness towards fans from outside Europe.

Financial and marketing implications tend to be of paramount importance when such decisions are being pondered.

And European-based supporters would not benefit at all despite the fact that the clubs involved are based within their confederation.

As the continent's biggest fans' group Football Supporters Europe told The Mirror, "A European competition final should first and foremost remain attractive for European football clubs and their supporter base."

As a competition that is European, the final should remain within the boundaries of UEFA's governorship.

It sparks memories of the Premier League's willingness to consider the fabled 39th round of games that would be held in neutral venues around the world.

It would have cashed in on the global reach of the Premier League but would be of no benefit to clubs' local supporters. Fortunately that was stopped in its tracks.

There have been other limited attempts to take minor finals elsewhere. For example, the Supercoppa Italiana (Serie A's equivalent of the Community Shield) has taken place in China and Qatar in all but two of the past seven years, with USA staging it twice in 1993 and 2003.

But that "final" is a glorified friendly, so staging it outside Italy or Europe does not have the same affect of taking competitive fixtures to other parts of the globe as part of a marketing effort.

First and foremost though, given that the UEFA Champions League final is a competition for European clubs, it makes no sense to stage it anywhere else.

 

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