The purpose of this paper is to examine the competitive balance of the UEFA Champions League group stages. There are numerous financial and commercial benefits to clubs that participate in this competition. The current paper examines whether the seeding system operated by UEFA is hindering some lower ranked teams from qualification and, thus, the associated benefits.
Data were collected for all UEFA Champions League group stages between1999/2000 and 2013/2014. Data analysis techniques included Herfindahl-Hirschman Index to examine competitive balance and one-way ANOVAs to examine the impact of the current seeding system on club performance.
The findings suggest that there are flaws in the ranking and seeding system used by UEFA, as results show that the competition is competitively imbalanced at the group stage. Additionally, clubs that are continually placed in the highest seeding pot historically tend to accumulate more points and finish in a higher position in the group, thereby giving them a better opportunity to progress further in the competition.
The study has implications for both the clubs competing in the Champions League, who will be affected by the seeding system, and UEFA themselves when considering the sporting integrity of their flagship competition.
To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first paper of its kind to examine competitive balance in this competition, and the paper contributes new knowledge that extends the research undertaken in the field previously.
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