European clubs every season aim to participate in the most prestigious club competition in the world, the Champions League.
However, only a select few from each league across Europe can qualify for the competition. The clubs that fail to meet the criteria, unfortunately enter the Europa League.
On paper, the Europa League seems an adequate tournament; all the clubs in the draw are similar structurally in regards to squad size, fan base and position in the league table. Moreover, Champions League teams enter the draw, once they are eliminated.
Therefore, the tournament would be considered by fans as a highlighted fixture in the European football calendar which would satisfy their football fix, due to its compelling and competitive matches.
If truth be told, the Europa League is far from compelling.
The Europa League and beforehand the Uefa Cup, has always been perceived by clubs and fans as the mediocre European Cup competition.
Some managers consider the competition as cursed because it undermines team’s abilities in claiming a league title or a Champions League place. Managers are instead content in exiting the competition.
Speaking to the Sun in 2011, Harry Redknapp, the former Tottenham Hotspur manager stated: "The young lads will get plenty of games in the Europa League because otherwise I think it's a killer, to be frank.
"Thursday and Sunday every week... a nightmare. You've got no chance in the Premier League with that, it kills you off."
Why, is the Europa League perceived as a cursed tournament?
For one there are too many teams in the competition, 80 is the largest number which is during the second qualifying stage, the number of team’s decreases to 48 once in the group stage. These teams in the group stage although similar structurally are represented from 27 different leagues. The Champions League has 32 teams from 16 different leagues.
These leagues are of different standard and often produce boring and lacklustre one sided matches, with usually the bigger club prevailing. Besides what neutral would watch Sevilla V SC Freiburg or Olympique Lyonnais v Real Betis.
Additionally, a tournament with 27 different associations represented results in long periods of travel. During the 2013/14, Tottenham Hotspur had to play matches in Russia, Moldova and Norway on a Thursday night.
This extensive travel period and Thursday night kick off can unsettle a manager and team’s schedule especially if they are low calibre team with a small squad. Often affect their league matches. An example being, Real Betis who successfully finished seventh in the 2012/13 La Liga season are now bottom of the league this season due to the Europa League.
Furthermore, the tournament winners only receive €5,000,000, which is television money excluded. In contrast, the winners of the Champions League received €10,500,000.
Adding more insult to the Europa League is that three teams in the past five years that have won the Europa league have come via the Champions League: Shakhtar Donetsk (2009), Atletico Madrid (2010) and Chelsea (2013). These teams have played fewer games than the other clubs and have big enough squads to be competitive in both in Europe and domestically, consequently, limiting the chances of teams that entered at the start.
Finally, mixed results caused from the Europa League can cost a manager his job. Managers such as Andre Villas-Boas, Michael Laudrup and Pepe Mel have all lost their jobs this season in part to Europa League membership.
The tournament maybe cursed for some but it has provided miracle stories such as Fulham, Middlesborough and Braga reaching the final.
Overall, the Europa League does provide silverware for clubs but the tournament provides more negatives than positives.
Clubs would be better off avoiding the cursed competition.
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