Tuesday, March 13, 2012

UEFA: TV or not TV


Remember this:

"Old Firm fans last night reacted furiously after the SPL scheduled 6pm midweek kick-offs away to St Johnstone for both Rangers and Celtic."

Furious they were.

Or this:

"UEFA have robbed St Johnstone and Hearts of a £165,000 windfall after refusing to allow their Scottish Cup replay to be shown live on TV next Thursday.

"They told the SFA they would not allow Sky coverage because it clashed with European ties and the game will now go ahead in its original Tuesday night slot."

Totally robbed.

The scenario: last season Rangers and Celtic had to play midweek away games at teatime to satisfy both the SPL's TV deal and UEFA's  rule that no televised game can threaten the purity of the Champions League.

This season St Johnstone and Hearts were denied a TV bonanza because it was decided that their Scottish Cup replay could have threatened to purity of the Europa League.

We need, I think, to stop chuckling at the idea of UEFA's current strumpetish tournaments having any purity and ask what games through yonder European window breaks?

Last week the Arsenal and Barcelona stages of the painfully elongated Champions League "round of 16" were subjected to stubborn competition from Chelsea and Tottenham in the English FA Cup.

Today Inter v Marseille and Bayern v Basel will run the risk of 1970s style devaluation in the face of a Merseyside derby.

It seems odd.

St Johnstone v Rangers could damage the Champions League.

St Johnstone v Hearts could cripple the Europa League.

But Birmingham v Chelsea and Liverpool v Everton wouldn't harm a UEFA fly.

Strange.

A number of people were pondering this perplexing UEFA peccadillo last week. It seemed to leave even the SFA and their chief executive, Stewart Regan, bemused.

An exasperated Laurie Dunsire over on Scottish Football Forums was forced to ask: "Do UEFA care about football?"

Maybe Laurie asked the wrong question:

"Do UEFA care about Scottish football?"

"No, couldn't give a flying fig."

That's just my opinion though. Right of reply is important.

Here's the answer I got when I asked the question of UEFA:

"In general top division matches cannot be on International Match Calendar dates, but exceptions are possible.

"There is a Memorandum of Understanding signed between UEFA and the EPFL (European Professional Football Leagues) which is also a basis for all national associations on the procedures and circumstances of use of UEFA dates.

"In this Memorandum the parties agree to abstain from jointly organising any supra-national sporting competitions, tournaments or football matches, and, with regard to the domestic league competitions, to respect the International Match Calendar and to ensure that all its member leagues abstain from scheduling matches in dates which are reserved for UEFA club competition matches in accordance with the official published UEFA Match Calendar, unless exceptional circumstances so justify and it is agreed with UEFA on a case-by-case basis following discussion of potential issues in specific working meetings to be held between UEFA and EPFL.

"UEFA has as well issued three circular letters to all national associations stating the procedure for exceptions due to force majeure."

What conclusions to draw from that?

Certainly I have a raging desire to see the term "Memorandum of Understanding" forcibly ejected from the language.

And I'm inclined to think that any answer containing a 100-plus word sentence is deliberately searching for obfuscation.

More particularly:

"Top division" and "domestic league competitions" would suggest that the televised Chelsea and Spurs games last week were, as cup games, actually perfectly acceptable under the terms of the UEFA agreement.

Does that mean the SFA made an assumption - wrongly - and didn't even ask the question of UEFA when considering the St Johnstone v Hearts game?

Surely not.

That doesn't explain why Liverpool v Everton is free to go ahead tonight.

"Force majeure" covers many an ill but an unpredictable Scottish winter, the reason for last season's early kick-offs, would seem to be a stronger negotiating hand than one of the Liverpool teams reaching the Carling Cup final, the reason for tonight's clash with the Champions League.

There's a chance that the authorities in England, more powerful and cash rich than their Scottish counterparts, just thought "hang it, we'll make more cash from these games than UEFA's going to fine us."

Or maybe I'm just being cynical.

It does seem that there is, for whatever reason, a double standard at play.

Predictably enough it looks like Scotland is losing out somewhere along the line.

Sources:

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