Champions League matches abroad and America and how it can work

You say you want us to stream your games, buy your merchandise, and come to pre-season friendlies, but you’re laughing at us for suggesting you might want to try one of our fan-friendly All-Star games, and then you get them all “come here, steal our clubs” about our investment in your league.

Do you really love us or do you just love our money?

American football fans in Europe can be forgiven if they think they are receiving conflicting signals from the subject of their affection at the moment.

And European football is back again this week, batting its eyelids, laughing at American jokes, saying it might be ready to play. Champions League Games outside Europe.

Like all the best courtship rituals, this one is full of symbols.

“Out of Europe,” for example, really means the United States. Because this relationship, as always with European football, is mainly about money and there are three main destinations ‘outside Europe’ that will provide the kind of cash that the big clubs get out of bed: 1) the Middle East 2) China and 3) the United States.

The first two options are a bit controversial at the moment, which leaves the third option: the one that has just increased 150 percent of the money he is willing to pay to broadcast/broadcast Champions League matches and most matches are being played in the 2026 World Cup, a tournament that should break records Standard audience numbers, revenue, and profits.

So, when UEFA and the European Club Association (ECA, the big club’s talk shop) say they might take some on the road, they mean American roads.

The big question is: What are games?

one idea, As I mentioned before the athletes Adam Crafton this weekMaybe it’s moving a group game or two to Los Angeles, New York, or any other American city that can do justice to the occasion.

This is the latest iteration of matches that UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin started last year when he told French sports newspaper L’Equipe that he was “fascinated” by the idea of ​​staging one first leg and a Champions League final. The “last four” week of the league.

This idea arose in 2020 when UEFA had to put pressure on the finals of two club championships, the UEFA Champions League and European League, in a small window in August. Both tournaments reached the quarter-final stage, in or took out a round of 16 match, when COVID-19 struck in March.

With everyone keen to start the 2020-21 season on time, UEFA got rid of its quarter-final and semi-final format, concluding the 12-day Champions League in Portugal and the Europa League within the same time frame in Germany. .

As matches were played in empty stadiums, there were no concerns about accommodation, the exorbitant costs of visiting fans or fan problems, and the tight schedule and big risks that made for good television. The players seemed to appreciate not having to travel too much, so the feedback from them was positive.

She sure made an impression on Ceferinthe commercial division of UEFA and Team Marketing, the Swiss agency UEFA has been selling the UEFA Champions League around the world for 30 years.

Of course, the final eight meant losing six games – four second games in the quarter-finals and two in the semi-finals – which is a lot of missing content for broadcasters and lost ticket revenue for clubs.

But the last four, organized over a week in a major city? Well, that sounds like a lot of ticket events, hospitality opportunities, new audiences, buzz and risk. Which broadcaster, sponsor or club accountant does not like all of these?

However, no one really dared with the idea of ​​Ceferin until April of this year when his new best friend, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, Tell the athlete He was a fan of “The Last Four”, very. If the name doesn’t mean much to you, Al-Khelaifi is the President of UEFA’s Broadcast Partner in the Middle East and North Africa, beIN Sport, President of Paris Saint-Germain, President of European Football Association and member of the UEFA Executive Committee (ExCo). . He also runs the Qatar Tennis Association and is a big player in tennis as well. It is very important.

Real Madrid

Real Madrid celebrate their victory over Liverpool in the Champions League final in May (Photo: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

In any case, a few weeks later, the British newspaper The Times reported that the idea of ​​the “last four” was gaining traction among football powerhouses and a formal proposal was imminent.

Five months later, we’re still waiting for that detailed plan to come out, which is not surprising because ideas could be in the process of building momentum for a long time in European football. For example, people have been talking about the European Premier League since the 1950s. We don’t like to be in a hurry.

Which brings us to this week and the next round of UEFA ExCo and ECA meetings. The UEFA meeting takes place on Tuesday on the Croatian island of Hvar, and the Egyptian Chefs Association holds the autumn meeting on Thursday and Friday in the most luxurious hotel in Istanbul. These guys have a hard time.

You won’t find “four finals” or the transfer of the Champions League group stage matches to Miami on the official agendas for either meeting – which is not usually the case. In fact, a loop from some of the decision makers in these meetings suggests that we are still in the “just an idea” stage of both projects.

Sorry, then, America, if your heart is set on actual Champions League matches in American stadiums, you’ll have to wait. And we have no idea how long this will take because we haven’t even started discussing this with European fans, who will hate or explain the idea. football League Why should you let a larger foreign competitor organize competitive games on their own board? This last conversation might take a while, in fact.

But while you wait, can we offer you an alternative that combines the fun of the last four weeks, with famous and successful teams already trying to win a trophy and a cash prize?

We can? Cool, did we tell you about the new “Inaugural Tournament”? You’ll love it, and most importantly, the vast majority of European fans won’t even notice it’s going to replace the European Super Cup, a competition they only care about if their own team is involved.

strict? Come on, how many of you don’t support Real Madrid or Eintracht Frankfurt Can you remember the result of last month’s Super Cup or where it was played?

To save you from opening another window, the score was 2-0 for Real and the match was played in front of 31,000 fans in Helsinki. That was three times the number crammed into Windsor Park in Belfast for the 2021 edition between Chelsea and Villarreal.

The UEFA tournament was also held at the start of the season between the previous season’s Champions League champions and the European League champions in Trondheim, Skopje and Tallinn in recent years. Great cities, all of them, but none of these matches created much in the way of shareable content or had marketing executives cruising around in search of fine dining options, five-star hotel rooms, or private jets. If there were opening ceremonies and half-time performances, this writer might have missed it.

So, we have a competition that has a place on the calendar but doesn’t do much with it, and an appetite for more football in our most important market has grown.

Why not try out the idea of ​​a “last fourth” week by adding the Europa Conference League winner into the mix – thus providing another great platform and earning opportunity for ECA’s middle-tier clubs – and perhaps even inviting the MLS champion to add some competitive edge to the proceedings?

See, there is an idea that can fly.

Here’s another thing to focus the minds on at UEFA: If this space is not filled with meaningful content, its fierce competitor FIFA will.

The game’s global governing body already has a World Cup in North America to look forward to and is desperate to add the expanded Club World Cup to its stock of salable content. What better way to prepare for 2026 than a tournament to find the Club World Champion? It would be a good legacy event, too.

Unfortunately, all broadcast and commercial contracts are closed until 2024, so we’re a full two seasons away from that happening, or anything like that, which means mixed signals will continue. We’ll be all over the place in private but then cool in public; We will not answer your calls but we will appear on your social sites.

But don’t take this for lack of interest. Our big clubs are just playing hard to get it. And as the movie that also gave us the phrase “Show me the money” said, I made them welcome.

(Top photo: Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)

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