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Calcio lives in hope of re-establishing itself in the European pecking order

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By Andrew Harding

Tuesday 04 October 2011

UEFA Co-Efficients have become a popular subject over the past few years for many in the European game. While they have always been there, their popularity has soared since the threat it has given as to the established pecking order in European football. Italy have been the main target as via the co-efficient system, Germany and more specifically the Bundesliga, has moved ahead of Italy and with it taken a UEFA Champions League place with them. The past few years have seen a thorough examination of Calcio and what needs to be done to arrest the slide and bring the Italian game back to its glory days.

Champions League places are not a divine right and Italy is now looking at what it can do to get that back. The obvious route is for the clubs to do well in European competition. This has caused Italian clubs to be under more scrutiny and Thursday night saw Udinese’s team selection in their UEFA Europa League clash with Celtic draw heavy criticism from various sources. It would appear that Italy is becoming increasing concerned with the perception that the rest of Europe has of it albeit through the more business-like demeanour offered through the co-efficient system.

The Europa League is a competition that is met with both praise and derision by observers throughout Europe. Italian clubs and indeed those teams coming from more established footballing countries appear sceptical of the tournament’s benefits for various reasons. The risks that the extra games naturally bring, the possibility of travelling longer distances than liked and perhaps more importantly the prize for winning have lead to clubs looking at the competition as more of a hindrance. While teams are more than happy to say they have qualified for European competition, it seems it is only for reasons of status when it comes to Europe’s second-level competition.

The Champions League is the tournament that teams want to be in and by focusing their energies on the domestic league at the risk of failing in the Europa League, teams have a better chance of qualifying. The stance Italy has taken is understandable but such an approach does not help the country’s co-efficient and with the resulting bolstering of the lesser nations, there becomes increasing parity in the European game.

The big impact that the co-efficient system has had on Italy is the upcoming loss of a UEFA Champions League place, with Germany being rewarded with it. It has been a huge blow to Italian football and has caused great introspection, perhaps more than Calciopoli. Calcio, according to the co-efficients which hold such strong bearing, is in decline. Less money means less likelihood of attracting top talent and perhaps more importantly keeping talent in the peninsula.

It is the nation that has taken the coveted Champions League place that Italy may look to learn from. With an entertaining league, passionate crowds and modest ticketing policies, the Bundesliga has begun to attract more attention overseas. Italy’s passion for the game has never been questioned but grounds have often been quieter than hoped and the actual stadiums have faced the most criticism. Juventus’ new arena is certainly a step in the right direction and it is hoped that other Serie A clubs will soon follow suit. It seems quite a vain point in terms of an atmosphere to sell to a global market but it would certainly boost morale in the Italian game as a whole.

While Italian clubs will need to improve fortunes on the pitch in European competitions, it would appear that for a better future, what’s off-the-pitch needs to be brought closer to the pitch for Calcio to build for a glorious future. It is not out of reach for the Italian game but it needs to re-assess itself further before thinking of returning to its former status.

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