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Why Do We Have The Nations League?

Do we really need three sets of international breaks for this essentially irrelevant Nations League before Christmas? 

The Nations League, And How Much Football Is Too Much?

By Dave Bowler

Given the way England’s Nations League game went in Spain, Gareth Southgate’s strategy of getting his excuses in early, bemoaning his players’ psychological tiredness post-World Cup on the early start of the Premier League looks at best unnecessary and at worst daft – unless it was a cunning plan to lull the hosts into a false sense of security.

But the message from the England manager had behind it the ring of truth, albeit that he didn’t follow through to the heart of the matter which is simple – we play too much football these days.

The bloating of the international calendar has a part to play – do we really need three sets of international breaks for this essentially irrelevant Nations League before Christmas? – but at the elite end, the real culprit are the obese Champions and Europa Leagues that eat up huge swathes of the footballing schedule.

If it wasn’t for all those midweeks where we have to fit in all those group games to give us final tables that we could have all largely predicted anyway, there’d be plenty of space in which to push back the start of the league season.

TV Nation

The elephant in that particular room which all those people inside the game refuse to acknowledge is that their huge salaries – including those of the international footballers and their managers – come about because of television. And it is television, with its 24/7/365 schedules that all need filling, that demands more and more games to fill the air time. After all, it’s either that or giving Paul Merson his own chat show, and who wants that?

As the world’s output of television proves time and again, quantity trumps quality every time, so let’s pile in as many games as we can, however predictable, however bogus, however dreary, and watch the subscriber and advertising cash just keep rolling in.

And if the players complain about the workload, then TV is happy to remind them just who it is that’s applying the butter, ham, lightly poached quail’s eggs and edible gold to their bread, and who is paying for that personal chef too.

It’s a driving force beyond the proposed third European competition that’s recently been mooted, though quite why we need one given so many clubs already qualify for the existing two is a mystery.

Eight Days A Week

And how we are going to squeeze in an eighth day of the week in order to screen it all is surely beyond even UEFA, whose powers, as far as we know, are not yet sufficient to extend to proclaiming, “And on the eighth day He created the Eurelegated Trophy for all the really crap teams across the continent to compete in”.  Or maybe they’ve already got special dispensation from God, who knows?

It’s a refrain that many have been trotting out for years now, so long that nobody believes it any longer, but one day, won’t the law of diminishing returns apply to football as well?  Won’t we get to a stage where, even for the most devoted disciple of the beautiful game, one more fixture is going to break the camel’s back?

Along with those quail’s eggs, won’t we some day see a dead goose lying among the remains of some golden eggshells? On the other hand, maybe it’s a choice between more football or something else created inside the tiny mind of Simon Cowell…This Eurelegated Trophy you mention, tell me more. It suddenly sounds strangely fascinating…

dave bowler logo for nations league article
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