Uefa have announced that they are considering the possibility of giving a place in the Champions League to Europa League winners, according to BBC Sport.
The decision, which will be made on Friday, will encourage the likes of Tottenham, Swansea and Wigan, who will all play in next season’s competition, to take the competition more seriously than Premier League teams have in the past.
This season’s winner, Chelsea, have already qualified for next season’s Champions League, as did their opponents in the final, Benfica. The question would then be where this new Champions League place would fall.
Would it go to the opponent in the final, assuming they hadn’t qualified for next season’s Champions League themselves? Would it go to the league that had the winner?
This would often mean that countries would have five Champions League entrants, and it is unlikely that UEFA would approve that considering that Tottenham were denied a fifth place last season. Ironically, if this rule were brought in, Tottenham would have been the team to benefit if the rule would have been applied for this season.
Though such a rule would undoubtedly both increase interest and commitment to the Europa League, a quick look at the last ten winners shows that Chelsea this year, Porto in 2011, Zenit St Petersburg in 2008, and Valencia in 2004 all qualified for the next season’s Champions League through league position, as well as winning the UEFA Cup/Europa League that year.
It would have benefitted some though. Atletico Madrid would have qualified for the Champions League twice after only finishing ninth and fifth in their Europa League winning seasons.
Shakhtar Donetsk, who won in 2009, finished second that year, and so entered the Europa League again. CSKA Moscow dropped out of the Champions League to win the UEFA Cup in 2005, but finished second that season and didn’t make the top European completion.
Sevilla won the completion two years in a row in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons, the first year they finished fifth and therefore didn’t qualify for the Champions League, but the next year, where they successfully defended the UEFA Cup, they finished third, and qualified for the first time since 1958.
The other alternative is that when a team wins the Europa League but doesn’t finish in the Champions League positions, the lowest placed team in these positions drop down to the Europa League.
It’s not a nice feeling (just ask Spurs fans) but may be the method UEFA are most likely to adapt if they do indeed reward Europa League winners with more than silverware.
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