Why Manchester City and Liverpool’s success in Europe is not necessarily great for English football - Stuart Rayner

A third all-English European Cup final in four years is on, with two Premier League v La Liga semi-finals this week.

With West Ham United in the semi-finals, so is a fourth Premier League Europa League finalist in as many years. Leicester City could make the inaugural final of the first Europa Conference League, a competition designed to widen opportunities for countries who struggle to progress in the other two competitions.

When, in mid-season, this sort of English domination already looked on the cards, a colleague suggested it was cause for celebration. It is emphatically not.

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“I only look at it from an English perspective,” they replied. But the ever-increasing uncompetitiveness of European competition is mirroring what is happening up and down the English pyramid. It is one of the reasons why the Government’s announcement of an independent regulator expected to distribute the Premier League’s riches much more equally is so welcome, and why the hazy lack of detail about when it will happen is frustrating.

Manchester City's Bernardo Silva celebrates scoring their side's fourth goal against Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

It is nice the two best teams in Europe play in English stadia every week. The Manchester City v Liverpool Premier League matches were a joy to watch, as a European Cup final between them would be. That is two great Premier League games a season but there are 200 shown on television – depth is important too.

Once again, the title is a two-horse race, the incompetence of those with the resources to chase their neighbours narrowing the field, which is hardly City or Liverpool’s fault.

At the other end, Norwich City will swap divisions for the fourth season running, and Watford too are also heading straight back from whence they came. Leeds United and Sheffield United finished ninth in their first seasons back in the Premier League but could not sustain it. The Blades went down, Leeds might yet survive their second-season relegation battle.

Fulham have secured a third Championship promotion and whilst it has taken Bournemouth two years, they also have the benefit of a parachute payment like the one sustaining Sheffield United’s play-off push.

Barnsley's players have been fighting a losing battle all season to avoid relegation from the Championship Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

There are asterixes at the other end, Derby County mirroring Sheffield Wednesday 12 months ago in effectively being relegated for breaking too often laxly-enforced financial rules, Reading, to the credit of those on the field, surviving in spite of it.

Peterborough United have gone straight back down and Rotherham United and Wycombe Wanderers or Sheffield Wednesday are hoping to come straight back up. The top seven are so far ahead of the rest in League One all have more points than Huddersfield Town, the first Championship team to book a place in the play-offs.

The gap between Leagues One and Two is less daunting but moneybags Stockport County are coming into the league and Hollywood-owned Wrexham will be favourites to win the play-offs, much as Halifax Town want to upset that.

Premier League television money is not just dragging it away from the Football League, but the rest of Europe. Parachute payments are distorting the Championship and encouraging teams who do not have them to break sustainability rules and spend money they do not have to keep up.

Leeds 6-0 thrashing at Anfield against Liverpool was further proof of the great divide amongst teams in the Premier League Picture: Peter Byrne/PA

Huddersfield Town and Luton Town have done an absolutely magnificent job punching above their weight to reach the play-offs but Barnsley did that last season and, like Leeds and Sheffield United, quickly discovered how difficult backing it up was.

As the Championship becomes more of a Premier League Second Division, so the gap to League One, the graveyard for badly-run clubs, widens, to the point where the likes of Rotherham and Peterborough are falling between the cracks.

And in non-league football there is no financial regulation so the likes of Stockport, Wrexham and before them Salford City can throw about money Football League clubs cannot compete with.

It is not as uncompetitive as Germany, where Bayern Munich have just won a 10th straight Bundesliga without being able to make an impression on this season’s European Cup, or France, where Paris Saint-Germain’s failure to do likewise saw fans boycotting their almost annual Ligue 1 title celebrations.

But the direction of travel is obvious. We take great pride in ours being a top division where everyone can beat anyone but it did not feel that way as Manchester City’s seventh goal against Leeds hit the back of the net or Liverpool dismantled them at Anfield.

Or when it already felt halfway through the season that Barnsley and Doncaster Rovers were fighting lost causes in their battles against relegation.

Doncaster won at Sunderland and Barnsley drew at home to Fulham but competing with them over 46 games?

No chance.

That predictability is boring – even eventually, as the muted celebrations in Bavaria and the absence of them in Paris showed – for the winners. Those scenes should serve as a warning to the big clubs whose thought process too often does not extend beyond their next million.

The sooner we can get back to a pyramid where more teams are given a realistic fighting chance, the better.