You know what I miss?
The UEFA Intertoto Cup.
Ok, I wasn’t even 8 years old when it was abolished and I never actually watched a game, but my 17-year old borderline hipster self loves the idea and I think you should too.
First of all, if (when) we bring it back, let’s ditch the stupid format that made it worth scrapping. It took me more than one wikipedia page worth of research to figure out how the final edition of the Intertoto cup worked and for a football competition, that’s more than one wikipedia page too many. The format should be inked in your brain as a 6-year old, either by your father (or mother, I don’t judge) or one of your more knowledgable mates. The one exception to that rule (and I promise, apart from this, it’ll be mind-numbingly straightforward) is that whatever team qualifies for this tournament should automatically be disqualified from their nation’s league cup (or equivalent). I’ll explain why later.
Take all the allocated UEFA competition qualifying spots for every respective country and double them: you now have your 239 teams in the running to be a part of the UEFA intertoto cup (not to mention all the extra teams who fucked up their Europa or Champions league qualification). Once a few months of qualification have passed, you should have your 64 teams ready in their 16 groups of 4. Cue the round of 32, round of 16, quarter finals, semi finals and finally a grand finale between two of europe’s best mediocre clubs, hosted in a mediocre stadium. Maybe somewhere like Wolfsburg.
With 159 games over (Plus the HUNDREDS of qualifying games), you have your brand spanking new intertoto cup. From Malaga to Stockholm, let the bright lights of european football shine brighter and further than ever before (since 2008). Now, if you’re one of the few people who think that this is satirical, you’re wrong- I genuinely believe in this idea, and let me tell you why.
What does it mean for UEFA?
Let’s not kid ourselves, UEFA don’t really care about us, they care about keeping the chains moving in european football. If they cared so much about fans, they’d have given us VAR in european qualifying and a clarification on how FFP works, not the UEFA nations league (which is actually pretty cool, it just seems dumb so I’m going to stick with it). So, I’ll appeal to UEFA’s pragmatic side. Dear Mr.Ceferin, what would you say regarding a competition that gives new referees the chance to referee matches, that puts even more clubs under your regulatory jurisdiction, that allows Giorgio Marchetti to explain rules on live TV for 4 full mind-numbing minutes before drawing balls out of a glass bowl and, most importantly, raises more money through more football. That means more tickets, more sponsored stuff, more merchandise, more food and more TV.
This isn’t artificially inflated supply either, because the demand is there to meet it. Have you ever met a mid-table German fan? They would dream of a European night, even if it’s against Udinese. Every match outside England and Denmark would sell more tickets than you expect, especially the further you go into the competition. Moreover, you only banished the Intertoto Cup from existence to limit yourself to the Europa League, something that’s currently backfiring. The Intertoto cup didn’t work because it was complicated and too annoying in the calendar, not because clubs wanted to be in the Europa League. If you force clubs to exit their third string domestic competition, you can be certain they’ll care about doing well in the Intertoto Cup.
What does it mean for clubs?
Sure, clubs will make more revenue from every way under the sun that they can milk a supporter’s wallet and sure, it provides their younger players with international experience, but why would you waste all that money on taking an easyjet three times a season?
Oh wait that rhetorical question really did answer itself. Whoops.
What does it mean for you?
Dear reader, assuming you live in europe, this means better games. Not just on TV, but down at the stadium. You may whine that Southampton’s exclusion from the Carabao Cup (yes, I had to google what that competition is called. God forbid they rename it again next year) means that Macclesfield won’t earn their dreamy trip to a premier league side, but that pales in comparison to sending the aformentioned Southampton all the way over to Sarajevo for a match way more exciting than a 1-1 draw to Macclesfield. Oh and the FA cup exists anyway.
More to the point, it means more money in your pocket too. while you may actually fork out the money to watch your side in the Intertoto cup instead of staying at home, avoiding their league cup encounter, the revenue from tourism, even short-term, is impressive and doesn’t just go to big businesses. Chances are, the smaller the club you’re playing, the more their fans recognize the importance to the local economy of eating and sleeping at local-run places.
Theoretically, it also means matches to fill out those gaps in the week. Regular monday night football here we come! Nothing to watch on the TV? Thing of the past. We should embrace the UEFA Intertoto Cup like we embraced Elvis’ return: awkward, but necessary, because it boosts the local economy, gives players more experience and means you have an excuse to go to Verona in the middle of November.
God bless the UEFA Intertoto Cup.