Gerald Sinstadt: Champions League debate heats up, despite the winter break
SO that's it, then. The Champions League and Europa League popped into the freezer for a couple of months until they can be brought out and reheated for consumption in February.
It happens every year and the knock-on effects are not negligible.
Rich clubs have to soldier on without the income from juicy European games. Sky and ITV raid their 100 Greatest Goals compilations and hope the ratings won't be too disastrous.
And fans, with the Europa League absent from their screens, suffer withdrawal symptoms themselves – a kind of Christmas cold turkey of the unwelcome kind.
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This is not new. UEFA President, Michel Platini can't speed up global warming, so European football has to cope with December and January as best it can.
This tends to bring the UEFA hierarchy out in a rash. One they cannot resist scratching.
Platini was a very fine player who operated from midfield, pulling the strings. Perhaps, now he has morphed into an administrator, we shouldn't be surprised that his desire for control hasn't evaporated.
Financial Fair Play – coming to a Premier League club near you one payday soon – was one of his wheezes.
Stand by for the next one. The reasoning works like this: the Europa League, now perceived as Europe-lite, is not much loved. So scrap it.
Then what to do with all the clubs who hated Thursday nights, but at least made a little money out of them?
Answer: tell them they've been promoted into the Champions League and in future will play on Tuesday or Wednesday. Thank you, Father Christmas.
I over-simplify but only a little. This is Platini not as Santa Claus, but as Salome, embarking on seduction with a dance of the seven veils.
So far he has lifted just a couple to suggest what might lie beneath.
It is this: in future the Champions League could be doubled in size, not 32 clubs, but 64 all in it together (David Cameron is expected to approve).
A single country might have seven places.
But softly, softly. "There is an ongoing debate to determine what form the European competitions will have between 2015 and 2018," says Platini.
"We're discussing it and we will make a decision in 2014. Nothing is decided yet."
Experienced Platini-watchers will supply the unspoken add-on: "Except by me."
Which can safely be translated to mean the new format will arrive in 2015.
Before reacting too strongly, it is important to understand there is a very important sub-text here.
For several years now there has been a suspicion that a growing number of Europe's big beasts want a way out of the jungle into a private enclosure of their own.
They look at the commercial value of Champions League ties that pit Real Madrid against Bayern Munich, Manchester United against AC Milan, and think such tasty delights should not be dependent on the luck of the draw in a knockout competition.
There should be a way of ensuring that such matches happen, home and away, every season.
And there is a way. Watch my lips. You make a list of Europe's top 18 clubs (the first dozen are easy, the remainder a matter of opinion) and invite them to join a mutual protection society.
Call it Super League Europe. Each member will be guaranteed 17 sell-out home fixtures. Sheiks and oligarchs will queue up to be owners. TV rights will sell for billions. Job done.
There is a catch. There always is. No-one would want to risk being tossed out of the sweet shop at the end of the first season.
Anyway – and this is the crunch – promotion and relegation would be impossible.
Suppose, say, Benfica and PSG finish in the bottom places. Would Portugal and France be entitled to provide automatic replacements? On what basis? Other nations could make a case for one of their clubs to go up instead.
In which case, Benfica and PSG go back home to make up an odd-number top division. Very messy.
The only solution would be to make Super League Europe a closed shop. The attraction is evident: the 18 founder members would be there unchallenged for ever. But the result for the excluded great majority would be stagnation.
Six years ago, Stoke City were battling their way out of the Championship. Today they are solidly established in the Premier League with ambitions of their own.
If they prove good enough, there should be no glass ceiling barring their access to Europe's elite.
This may well be the worst case scenario being discussed behind closed doors at UEFA.
It will be whispered in the ears of potential sufferers as a warning of what could happen.
The price for keeping the big beasts in the jungle would be a 64-team Champions League.
That could be the reason for Michel Platini tempting and teasing as he lifts the veils.
Perhaps he is a little smarter than we sometimes think.