Modern football is driven by the ever-growing demands for more money by those at the top. It is plausible that UEFA may decide to grow the European Championship further still to 32 sides. With further growth inevitable in order to fulfil financial appetite’s, it could be good for football.
Why an Expansion of the European Championships Could be Good
Is it Inevitable?
While leading officials are silent on the matter, it would come as no surprise to see UEFA add another twelve fixtures to the Euros. The chance to draw in more TV revenue and extortionate ticket and corporate sales would surely be in their minds.
The politics of UEFA, balancing the interests of 55 disparate members, may also drive expansion. The 2016 enlargement was partially explained by a desire to see more nations from outside the traditional powerhouses take part at the biggest event, and the same logic would drive a move to 32 teams.
Turning the Negatives Into Positives
This particular instance would not necessarily be a bad move from a sporting point of view. When there were only sixteen sides, it represented an elite grouping. The vast majority harboured serious aspirations of making the business end of the tournament. With 24 sides, made up of those like Albania, North Macedonia and Scotland, such ideas fell by the wayside. Additional teams simply follow an ongoing pattern.
In the past six major tournaments (World Cups or Euros), 33 out of 55 UEFA members qualified at least once. These don’t include Erling Haaland’s Norway or the up and coming Kosovars. The beauty of football is that anyone can beat anyone – as demonstrated by Germany’s defeat to North Macedonia in March.
Any expansion would not bring the 9-0 victories over San Marino or other such catastrophised hypotheticals. There would of course be the odd heavy defeat, but that isn’t new in elite international competition: Russia won 5-0 and England 6-1 against Saudi Arabia and Panama respectively at the last World Cup. Belgium beat Hungary 4-0 at the last Euros, whilst France put five on Iceland in the quarterfinals.
It’s a move that is unlikely to kick up much fuss from players either. As well as providing more opportunities to play at the biggest stage for more of them, an expansion of the European Championship would not involve any more games. At the moment, there are three group games and four knockout fixtures to win. A 32-team tournament, like the World Cup, would play out the same number.
Removing the Confusion Over Third Place
Like the World Cup, it would also clear up some of the ambiguities and confusion regarding the knockout stage. At the moment, some third-placed sides can qualify for the knockouts. That itself makes it hard to plan or know what is required from games, potentially distorting the competitive balance of the tournament.
For players and fans, it makes forward planning more difficult. At the World Cup, you can plot your team’s path to the final based on whether you finish first or second, hypothesising which teams you may come up against, but being able to plan where to go and how to travel there. An expansion would remove such discordant confusion.
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