Friday, February 29, 2008

Something about the Intertoto Cup and nipples

Yep, that's what it really looks like: an ashtray with etchings

When you examine the bloated cash cow that is European football, there are many teats.

The Champions League is the fattest tip, full of glorious funding and nourishment for the upper-tier clubs.

The UEFA Cup is still glamorous and milk-producing, feeding the next rung down and taking in those teams kicked off the CL nipple in the early rounds.

And then you come to the end of the line [and, thankfully, the end of this awful analogy], the Intertoto Cup. It's the old, shriveled, dessicated nipple, left open for the mid-level teams to scrap over and hopefully find enough goodies in order to move up the pecking order next time around.

However, all of the notable sub-Big 4 clubs have filed their admission papers while still in the thick of the chase. Everton filed on Wednesday, Aston Villa applied on February 15, and Man City posted their forms off on February 1.

Everton are in 4th place, 3 points clear of Liverpool!

What's this Intertoto crap all about?

The pressure for Euro money is so great on the almost-there teams that filing for the Intertoto is the logical safety net against falling further behind. Spending so much money on players in order to tread water with the Big 4 has to be recouped somehow, and some games against Balkan and Central European minnows is a good way to stroll through the summer with a small profit.

Eleven teams jump from the Intertoto to the UEFA, having to win three rounds of matches against all sorts of ramshackle teams in the process, with the winner of the Intertoto being the team that progresses the furthest in the UEFA that season.

Last year, Newcastle United [man, they were good back then] jumped to the UEFA along with Marseille, Auxerre, Hertha Berlin and others, and this year, Blackburn Rovers hopped in as well.

The formula works, but it is a little limp-wristed compared to the conventional format. UEFA realizes the financial stress that the 2nd tier of clubs across Europe face, and naturally they're all for extending their own tournaments and widening the field to get more matches, more TV money and more exposure in general. It's a win-win in general.

What confuses me is how early teams have to file. Setting the deadlines for application so early, when there's still so much to play for! I realize these just looking for some insurance against missing out altogether, but there's only 6 points separating 5 teams for those final 2 spots in Europe [although the picture is muddled somewhat with Spurs beating Chelsea for the Carling Cup], and now these teams are dealing with their owners protecting against possible loss.

Of course, my real concern is why my team hasn't filed yet. I mean, we're going to secure 4th place eventually, but you never fucking know, do you? With all the most recent bullshit with Hicks and LFC ownership maelstrom [read Hicks' smug fucking quotes in that article and try not to punch your computer out], missing out on Europe would really throw a wrench in the works.

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