Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Uefa's late draws are unfair on Linfield, Crusaders and Glentoran fans

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

Glentoran keeper Aaron Hogg makes the decisive shootout save to earn his team a 2011 Europa Cup win on penalties over Renova of Macedonia
Glentoran keeper Aaron Hogg makes the decisive shootout save to earn his team a 2011 Europa Cup win on penalties over Renova of Macedonia

It may have escaped your notice, but three weeks ago Viktoria Plzen were crowned champions of the Czech Republic.

You didn't know? I can't really say I'm surprised.

So what has a little known team from an eastern European country winning just the second league title in their history got to do with anyone over here?

Everything, if you happen to be a Cliftonville, Linfield, Crusaders or Glentoran fan and have been patiently waiting to find out who your team's European opponents will be this summer.

The good news is that you will find out today. The bad news is if you support the Blues, Crues or Glens and they are drawn away from home then you've got just a matter of days to organise your trip if you want to go to the game.

That's where the timing of Plzen's success comes into it.

Uefa claim that they can only make the draw once all the participating teams are known, but Plzen won the league three weeks ago, so why wait until now to make the draw, with the first round, first leg matches being played next week?

It's downright unfair to ask part-time clubs, who are relying on European money, to arrange a trip – possibly to the back of beyond – at the drop of a hat.

When it comes to the group stages, Europe's biggest and richest clubs will have three weeks notice to book their charter aircraft to their first venue – five weeks if you're at home first.

Clearly not everyone is equal in Uefa eyes, but at least they could try to pretend that is the case.