3. ⚽️ European soccer's moment of reckoning
On the heels of an unforgettable 24 hours of Champions League drama that drove global audiences wild, a moment of reckoning is coming for European soccer following two bombshell reports.
Bombshell No. 1: Last Wednesday, the New York Times obtained a UEFA document that mapped out a vision of what the Champions League could become — a vision that appears to have been in the works for more than a year.
- In short, 24 teams would no longer have to qualify through domestic play. This would turn the Champions League into a competition dominated by a small group of elite clubs and deepen the divide between the Liverpool's of the world and the hundreds of smaller clubs that make up European soccer.
- Under this proposed system, Ajax — the proud Dutch club that made a magical run to the semifinals — would have found it extremely difficult to even qualify for the competition.
Bombshell No. 2: Over the past four years, a series of leaks have exposed soccer's darkest secrets. They've also led to numerous investigations, including one into whether Manchester City cheated European soccer's financial system.
- On Monday, news broke that investigators are going to recommend that Man City receive a one-year ban from the Champions League.
The big picture: The first story is not about the format of a competition, and the second story is not about a rules violations. Rather, "both are about something far broader and, in a way, far easier to understand," the NYT's Rory Smith writes:
- "Both are about a struggle for control, between UEFA — the body that has overseen European soccer for decades — and the globe-straddling, extravagantly wealthy superclubs that provide much of its revenue."
- "Both are about power, and who can exert it. And both are about who runs soccer — on whose behalf, and for whose benefit."
- "Maybe the game should be run for the elite. Maybe the game should be run for everyone. Either way, we approach a crossroads [and] the direction we eventually travel will tell us ... where, precisely, the power now lies."