It's an unfortunate fact that many teams do not take the Europa League seriously enough.
For a competition containing the likes (this year) of Chelsea, Inter Milan, Napoli, Atletico Madrid, Benfica and Tottenham among others it is seriously undervalued.
The reason for this may be that the incentive to win it is simply not large enough: a Super Cup place and a trophy which is not particularly well-regarded by football's elite.
Many teams may just think that it is not worth playing 15 matches on Thursday evenings (which often results in poor performances the following Sunday) in order to win the tournament if it may compromise their domestic league campaigns.
Prime examples of this were the two Manchester clubs last season, who were both knocked out by inferior opposition. It's a pity because the teams which could help make this lacklustre tournament worthwhile (the Champions League drop-outs usually, or those used to playing Champions League football) often field weakened sides and are fairly indifferent about whether they progress or not.
This is why it has been suggested that the winners of the Europa League should obtain a spot in at least the Champions League qualifiers. After all, if a team has managed to prove itself on a European stage, why shouldn't it be given the right to try and test itself against Europe's elite?
Surely they have just as much right to do so as a team which only managed a fourth place finish in its domestic league? Furthermore, such incentive would almost definitely make teams more determined to do their best to win the tournament: after all, matches are much more interesting when there is something of importance at stake.
Some might argue that since cup winners (e.g: winners of the FA Cup or Capital One Cup) are allowed to participate in this tournament, you could end up with a lower-league team luckily winning the Europa League and gaining a place in the Champions League, which could cause humiliation, especially if they were to draw a heavyweight team in the group stages (which would be fairly likely due to the seeding process).
If this did happen, there would no doubt be many people claiming that this lower-league team had 'taken' the place of a more worthy team. However, simply by winning the Europa League, such a team would have shown that they have the grit and skill to participate in Europe and that they will do their very best to win the competition at least.
So in my opinion, the winners of the Europa League should be given a place in the Champions League in the near future.
Hopefully in doing so, teams would be less likely to field weakened squads and we would end up with a tournament that is far more interesting to watch and contains some of the tension associated with the Champions League.
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