Hands up who has had a good old laugh at the English teams in the Champions League over the last few weeks? West Ham fans have been treated to a feast of mediocrity from the Premier League’s representatives in Europe, with Manchester City being humbled by Barcelona and Arsenal and Chelsea embarrassing themselves against Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain respectively.
It’s truly been a blast and, for the East End faithful, offices all over London have been a little more pleasant as the noisy neighbours have been reduced to quivering wrecks. But are we right to gloat? Or is our schadenfreude just a little short-sighted? There is, of course, a school of thought that says English teams failing on the continent could be bad news for the Hammers.
The theory is based upon Uefa’s coefficient – which is the ranking system that determines how many spots each country has in the their competitions. There is a lot of maths involved but essentially the worse the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool perform in the Champions League the more likely it would be that England could drop from four teams to three. This would be bad as, while it is just conceivable that the Olympic Stadium-based Hammers could one day pinch fourth, a third placed finish would be even harder to achieve and probably beyond them.
However, there would be one distinct advantage of the Premier League being stripped of a place. With less qualifying positions available it would be far harder for teams to guarantee a place at Europe’s top table. While Manchester City and Chelsea would be pretty confident of finishing in the top three every year the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool would have to be pretty brave to include the Champions League income in their budgets.
If they cut their cloth along more modest lines the gap between the rich and the poor would be cut — and West Ham would be competing with their more illustrious rivals on a more level playing field. Perhaps there is yet another reason to laugh at Chelsea after all.