There was once a time when UEFA were the proud parents of three beautiful children.
They were the Champions League, The Cup Winners Cup and the UEFA Cup.
Yes, UEFA had three well-run, interest-generating tournaments, with the Intertoto Cup being a fourth tournament where teams would compete for last-minute spots in the UEFA cup over the European summer. Sadly things have changed.
The UEFA Cup and Cup Winners Cup were merged to create a stronger competition back in the 1999/00 season, which since 2009/10 operates under the name of the Europa League.
Every club who gets eliminated from the Champions League qualifying rounds or finishes third in the group stages of the Champions League enter the Europa League.
Whilst merging two competitions and adding Champions League clubs to the competition may have made it stronger, there are a few drawbacks.
This has resulted in a competition with too many games for clubs with much smaller squads in comparison to their domestic rivals who have bigger and more quality-filled squads who play in the Champions League.
Players like Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery spoke about being embarrassed about potentially playing in the Europa League when Bayern were battling to qualify for the Champions League back in 2010/11, several other players have done so too, as have many managers, club directors and owners alike. This competition has to change.
The Europa League has become a distraction to many clubs, an annoyance to managers, a waste of time and ticket-money for supporters – note the high number empty stadiums on Thursday nights, with little sponsorship, little TV revenue and even mockery from rival fans towards clubs who play in this much-maligned Thursday night tournament. It never was like this.
Juventus for instance, made €65.3m in television revenue for making the Champions League quarter-finals last season.
Such is the financial disparity in the Europa League prize money that Lazio only made €9.6m for making the same stages of the Europa League. Mr. Platini should be concerned about changing such financial disparity between the two European competitions before commenting on changes to World Cups.
The Europa League’s prestige has deteriorated to the point that in another era, Liverpool, Everton, Inter Milan and current Serie A leaders AS Roma, would have been playing in the Intertoto Cup to gain entry into the Europa League after none of the four above-mentioned clubs qualified for European football last season.
The current Europa League would have benefitted from having these four clubs in the competition, especially given the fact that Serie A and the English Premier
League are two leagues with big international followings than the handful of
clubs who qualified from the Fair Play League system run by UEFA.
However, the majority of each club’s supporters are probably glad they didn’t qualify for the Europa League as domestic results have benefitted, than being having their
squads stretched across domestic matters and a Thursday Night distraction. Again,
it never was like this!! Mr. Platini your second competition is deteriorating!
Michel Platini and his colleagues at UEFA need to find a solution. Even the offer of giving the Europa League winners a Champions League (from 2014-15 onwards) space might not be sufficient to make this tournament a compelling, intriguing,
exciting competition for fans, clubs and sponsors alike.
It doesn’t solve the issues of too many games in one competition filled with teams who have small squads. One may even ask, with the Champions League birth given to the winner, will the Europa League now serve as a Champions League qualifying tournament?
Michel Platini needs to fix his own competitions before commenting on solutions and ideas to fix a tournament which other than the selection process regarding the hosting nations, might not need any renovations.
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