Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Biting Back: Uefa not being fair to minnows of Europe

Linfield manager David Jeffrey

It was only on Sunday that Spain’s win in the Euro 2012 final officially brought the curtain down on the 2011-12 football season.

Linfield and Portadown mark the start of the 2012-13 campaign with Champions League and Europa League qualifiers this evening.

You could be forgiven for thinking that it’s all come around very quickly. Particularly as Uefa only made the draw last week.

Macedonia is unlikely to be on the travel itinerary of many holidaymakers, but that’s where the Ports have been hastily arranging a trip at extremely short notice.

The Blues head to the Faroe Islands next week, while Cliftonville and Crusaders are off to Sweden and Norway respectively.

It’s bad enough that Northern Ireland’s representatives are now playing in Europe two months earlier than the leading lights, but delaying the draw until just over a week before the games exposes a blatant disregard for teams from the continent’s smaller nations.

Uefa give the top clubs — you know who they are; the ones that have millions dripping out of their bank accounts — more time to put their travel arrangements together for every one of their Champions League games than they do Irish League sides, for whom the £80,000 they get for playing in Europe is a lifeline.