Incoherent Coppa Italia Format

by | May 11, 2021 16:14 | Editorial, Coppa Italia

There were few mourners at the European Super League’s funeral, it was not popular and this feeling was felt worldwide. It was incredible then that even as the earth was still fresh on the grave, the Lega announced plans to re-vamp the Coppa Italia and only involve teams from Serie A and Serie B.

There were few mourners at the European Super League’s funeral, it was not popular and this feeling was felt worldwide. It was incredible then that even as the earth was still fresh on the grave, the Lega announced plans to re-vamp the Coppa Italia and only involve teams from Serie A and Serie B.

The reaction in Italy has been one of condemnation and surprise, as the plan goes against everything a cup competition should stand for. It simply one more ill-thought plan that jeopardises the heart of the Italian game.

When the news broke, it was almost hard to take it seriously. Could this have been through and signed off after the cataclysmic failure of the Super League? The plan would be for the 2021-22 version of the Coppa to have just 40 teams, 20 from Serie A and 20 from Serie B. Incredibly, all clubs from Serie C and D would be ousted from the competition. How did the Serie C President feel about this? Not great, that is for sure, as and Francesco Ghirelli has confirmed an emergency meeting for Monday.

“The decision by Serie A to exclude Serie C teams from the Coppa Italia does not only violate consolidated directives, but it is also the expression of an elitist concept of football, one incapable of a vision covering the whole system,” said Ghirelli. He went on to say that he would protest this move and try to safeguard the culture of football, and he is right.

If you take the FA Cup in England for instance, the whole point and lure of the competition are that teams from the lower leagues, even non-professionals, can try to compete with the elites. It is David and Goliath and it’s what football is all about. Any Englishman who watches football can recall Wrexham beating Arsenal, Sutton United beating Coventry or for those of a certain vintage, Hereford beating Newcastle. This is part of the fun.

It is true that there are not as many stories that Italy can tell like this.

Back in 2015-16, Alessandria from Serie C made it all the way to the semi-finals. They had beaten opposition on their way who were superior and eventually, they came up against Serie A’s Palermo. They won 3-2 and then went on to beat Genoa (from Serie A) in extra time. Serie B side Spezia were also put to the sword, but Milan ended Alessandria’s dreams with a 6-0 win on aggregate.

In 2017-18, Pordenone also had a good run beating Venezia before coming up against Cagliari. They overcame them, and this set up a clash against Inter. They ran the Nerazzurri close and were only defeated on penalties, but the run will be remembered.

The current Coppa format has 78 teams (less than the FA Cup) but the top eight Serie A sides do not feature until the round of 16. Therefore it is not often that they face lowly opposition and that was something that needed to be changed, but in all different way.

Maurizio Sarri once called the current Coppa Italia an “unfair competition” and now, this is even more true. It’s madness to exclude teams from lower divisions. Despite being in Serie B, Venezia’s Twitter account called it ‘tone deaf’ and one has to agree because it has to make it easier for the lower league teams to take on the big one, while this plan is exactly the opposite.

Lega Serie D President Cosimo Sibilia says the Coppa Italia format change is missing the point. “In other countries the amateurs host the big clubs.” In some respect, the benchmark should be the FA Cup and even go so far as to give the lower teams the upper hand by letting them host the bigger clubs. Again, reform can be done but this is the wrong way.

In a world that is, still reeling from a pandemic and football is struggling financially after it, this is another madcap scheme built out of greed. Perhaps all the leagues should be working together to reform the Coppa and market it so all can benefit.

Who would not want to travel to Como, Grosseto, Palermo, Perugia or Catania to see them face Inter or Milan? The world needs football and romance after a pandemic. True, money is also needed, but the new plan may be worth €40m instead of €35m, according to reports in Italy.

Is it worth changing an already questionable format, make it worst, for a potential extra gain of €5m? As the Super League fiasco proved, fans do not need a soulless tournament that turns its back on the game’s amateur and lower league parts. On a smaller scale, the clubs put into practice those Super League principles they had fought less than a month ago.

@RichHall80

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