“England” Out Of Champions League, Apparently

11 By Ian  |   The Ball  |   April 7, 2010  |     7

So it has come to pass. For the first time in seven years, there will be no English clubs in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. The manner of the defeats of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United were from three different chapters of the book, “How To Get Eliminated From A Two-Legged Cup Tie”. Chelsea were edged out by Internazionale over two legs during which they seldom looked a considerably inferior team. Arsenal were thrashed – fortunate to find a way back into the first leg against Barcelona, they were hopelessly outplayed by one single player in the return match. Manchester United can, at least count themselves slightly unlucky – beaten on away goals after two very tight matches.

At full-time, however, the ITV commentator Peter Drury seemed to mistake “Manchester United” for “England”. It is difficult to exactly quantify this, but it has started to feel, over the last ten years or so, as if English football supporters (except, obviously, supporters of the clubs involved) have stopped supporting “other” English teams in European competitions. Have we grown bored with the predictable precision of England’s four biggest clubs to the latter stages of the competition? Are we jealous of the seemingly perpetual success of these four clubs? Are we just that much more hostile to other clubs than our own? Something has changed.

Turning our attention to this evening’s match, there were points to consider concerning Manchester United’s performance against Bayern Munich. Firstly, was it wise for Alex Ferguson to start Wayne Rooney when he clearly wasn’t fully fit, and what does this decision say about Manchester United’s over-dependence? Secondly, is Dimitar Berbatov really that much of a flop, or is this merely an optical illusion brought about by this gait? How uncharacteristic was it for Manchester United to start with such a swagger, build up a lead that would have seen them through to the next round and then have the match completely turned on its head?

While all of these questions matter massively to Manchester United supporters, the issue of the elimination of Manchester United (as well as Chelsea, Arsenal and, indeed, Liverpool) certainly matters to ITV. It would seem likely that their audience (and the associated advertising and sponsorship revenues that are affected by it) will fall off greatly for the remaining matches in the tournament with four non-English semi-finallists competing. Perhaps it was this that was the instinctive reaction of Peter Drury when he claimed that the whole of England had been knocked out of the Champions League this evening. For all the gnashing and wailing on ITV over their defeat, at least a degree of the sympathy held towards Manchester United will have evaporated with Alex Ferguson’s post-match comment:

“They got him sent off. Everyone sprinted towards the referee. Typical Germans… they’re like that”.

Possibly he needs to restrain himself from giving post-match views at all if he is going to get himself so worked up about losing he starts making comments like that. It doesn’t do his reputation any good – and it’s not just a bit of “banter”, not in the way that he said it or the context of how he said it – to make such grossly boneheaded comments as that. He should apologise for having said it. Yet even Sir Alex won’t be the most seriously affected by it – the football club will also lose money for not getting further in the competition. They will, of course, lose out on prize money (€500,000, had they been knocked out in the semi-finals, €1.5m had they reached the final and €4.5m had they win the trophy) and, even more significantly, a significant slice of the “market pool” – the television money that is at least partly dependent upon the size of the television audience that they attract. It’s absolutely not a calamity, but every little helps in these straitened times, especially with those interest payments to settle later this year.

It is also somewhat pleasing to see three clubs that represent alternatives to the Premier League’s flawed financial model. Bayern Munich and Barcelona are both member-owned clubs, while Lyon have gone from a base of sound financial planning to becoming one of the greatest club sides in the history of French club football. Also, while it is almost certain that television audience figures for the competition will dip in Britain, the presence of representatives from four different nations will certainly boost audience figures in Germany, France, Spain and Italy. There might well be glum faces in certain quarters of the British media this evening, but advertisers and television companies across Europe may be rubbing their hands with glee.

The Premier League will be back next year. The days of unbridled success and a sense of entitlement may be coming to an end, or this season may just prove to be a blip. The lop-sidedness of European football means that getting through the group stages again next year will likely prove to be as much of a procession that it has done in recent years. In the long term, however, there may be a subtle shift of the tectonic plates back in favour of some of the other traditional powers in European football and, while that may be bad news for Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, it just be good news for the Champions League in a more general sense.



Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

  • April 7, 2010 at 10:51 pm


    Tis bit had me perplexed: “… over the last ten years or so, as if English football supporters (except, obviously, supporters of the clubs involved) have stopped supporting “other” English teams in European competitions.”

    I didn’t think fans ever supported the ‘other’ English teams in Europe. Nottingham Forest were despised in our playground as were Liverpool, Leeds and Derby … maybe it’s because we were in Wales!

  • April 7, 2010 at 11:39 pm


    As an Arsenal fan, the only reason I can see hoping ManU or Chelsea progress further in the Champions League is so they’ll be more tired in their Premier League games. I’m Canadian, but I don’t see why Any Arsenal fan would want ManU to do better in the CL just because they’re based in England.

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  • April 8, 2010 at 8:52 am


    Agree with the others – bollocks to this idea that we should back English clubs in Europe. I hate ManU with a passion, nothing’s going to change that, don’t care who they’re playing. I was rooting for Munich last night and was delighted to see them go out to a great goal.

    I also hate ITV – last night’s coverage being a prime example why. If ITV (and many BBC) presenters could take “Seraleck” Fergiscum’s cock out of their mouths for a few seconds, they might actually produce some decent commentary for a change instead of cringe-worthy puns and hyperbole.

  • April 8, 2010 at 11:29 am


    I’ve never understood why English clubs in Europe are ‘supported’ by, for instance, my fellow Grimsby fans. These are the clubs that set up the Premier League expressly to fuck clubs like ours over, taking away TV money, of course, and also sapping local support. Given the number of plastic Liverpool and ‘Man U’ fans on the streets of northern Lincolnshire, these clubs are effectively our local rivals. We’re not expected to support, say, Scunthorpe as our local representatives in the second division, so why do we back Chelsea as England’s representatives in European competition? If you want to be patriotic, that’s what national teams are for. Support England and your local club, and bollocks to the big four.

  • April 8, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Lanterne Rouge

    I used to warmly support other English clubs in international competition because once they were knocked out, matches involving two non-English clubs were never shown live. Hence, early exits for English clubs meant less football on TV – one really has to cast one’s mind back to the days when only England v Scotland and the FA Cup Final were shown live on television. The bonus of an extra live club game in a 12 month period (e.g. the 1978 final between Liverpool and Bruges) was a real treat.

    Now though, I agree with most of the commenters here in that there is no reason to support English teams blindly. Indeed, Barcelona v Inter will be mouthwatering in its clash of styles.

  • April 8, 2010 at 8:52 pm


    I didn’t think fans ever supported the ‘other’ English teams in Europe

    Yes they did. But the trend to oppose them instead, however, goes back a bit more than ten years or so (I seem to remember writing a piece on the subject for When Saturday Comes rather more than ten years ago). I’d have said it has pretty much gone alongside the introduction of the Premier League. At the point at which a few clubs went out of their way to screw the rest of English foootball for their own enrichment, a large proportion of English football fans started to see them as the enemy. And quite right too.

  • April 8, 2010 at 10:11 pm


    Alex Ferguson’s comment, something of a pot/ketle interface surely.

    Alongside Tyldsley’s comment about Ibrahimavic finaly arriving (because he had scored his first goals against English opposition) last week, ITV look as if they are lining themselves up as the Tartan Army’s least favourite sports broadcaster. Utterly cringeworthy.

  • April 9, 2010 at 9:24 pm


    I support my local side. Season ticket holder (Southern Premier League). I also support all English teams in Europe, and were disappointed to see them all drop out, although it’s clear Barca are by the far the best team in Europe at the moment.

    But I like English teams to do well. I don’t disagree that the Premier League is bullshit, and I would welcome a return to fair division of TV money, and 4 divisions of the Football League. But I will still support English teams in Europe. I’m English. I also support the national team, and have been to a few Euros and WCs.

    Hatred in football is a sad thing, and says more about the blokes (and women) that spew the bile. Yes I get wound up at a local derby (during the game), and there are some characters in football and football media I don’t have much time for. But wanting English teams to lose? Nah.

  • April 11, 2010 at 9:20 pm


    I’ve been reading and listening to all the media about how great and dominant the EPL is.
    And as we can see it obviously is not. It’s a league just like the others in Europe. Except now it has a ton of debt, and no teams to showcase in the champions league semis.
    The EPL should scrap the foreign players, foreign coaches, foreign owners and go back to cultivating young english talent.

  • April 12, 2010 at 12:51 pm



    “Hatred in football is a sad thing, and says more about the blokes (and women) that spew the bile. Yes I get wound up at a local derby (during the game), and there are some characters in football and football media I don’t have much time for. But wanting English teams to lose? Nah.”


    It’s not “wanting English teams to lose” – it’s that for many of us in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland an English team has as much relevance as a Spanish team or a German team.

    ITV and Sky broadcast to all four countries within the UK and sometimes (or rather, very often) forget that we don’t all care about England’s national team nor its clu football teams – we are watching to see a good football match and we want the best team to win.

    It does not necessarily follow that we will want the English team to win every time …

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