Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughHow to fix the Europa League - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough How to fix the Europa League - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

How to fix the Europa League

UEFA has made the decision to allow winners of the Europa League entry to the following seasons Champions League from 2015. The move is to try and give teams more of an incentive and focus to win Europe’s second domestic trophy, but more is needed to ignite the competition.

This seasons Europa League was won by Chelsea, but outside of west-London, their victory was largely unnoticed. There are many problems with the Europa League, and providing this incentive alone will not solve all of them.

160 teams entered this seasons Europa League, a figure which is far too high. The first teams were kicking off before Fernando Torres was scoring Spain’s final goal in the previous season’s European Championship. From July a never ending near twelve-month cycle then began, and as teams were eliminated, many more were brought in to replace them. There are 10 phases in total, including a home and away group stage game. While teams in the Champions League enjoy a rest over winter, Europa League teams are playing nearly week in-week out as the competition progresses.

Teams often complain about the demands of the Europa League, and, in fairness, taking the competition seriously results in a very packed schedule. The sheer number of extra games can cripple teams, as can the early start to the season and the Thursday matches, often giving only a day turnaround from an away game in Eastern Europe. Newcastle’s slump in form this season was put down to their tiresome continental challenge, whilst Spurs fell right off the pace, in the push for a Champions league spot, when the Europa League intensity stepped up.

The scheduling of the competition should be the primary focus for UEFA to sort out. Does the competition need 160 teams? No it doesn’t. There are far too many spots and play-off rounds, making the competition largely unfair, as teams can enter the group stage around 10 games further down the line than the beginners. The current format often generates huge mismatches, particularly at the start of the season that can see Liverpool turning up to play FC Kaunas in mid-August. No wonder players cannot be bothered.

Could games be played on Wednesday instead? Possibly, there is no reason why not, especially at the end of the season where there are fewer Champions League games.  

The competition with the Champions League is another problem. The hey-day of the UEFA Cup, as it was known before 2009, was in the mid-1990s. In those days the Champions League only consisted on a 24 team group stage, meaning many of Europe’s best teams were playing in the UEFA Cup and battling it out for what was then a respected trophy. However, the expansion of the Champions to include the top-four teams in the three dominant leagues, somewhat diminished the relevance of the UEFA Cup, which has become something of an ‘everybody gets a turn’ competition.

Having a Champions League spot for the Europa League winners will increase competition for the title, but one feels UEFA should make their mind up. Either get-rid of the Europa League and put all efforts into a larger Champions league, or run 2 smaller competitive competitions. Sadly, one cannot see either of these being a possibility any time soon. Enjoy summer while it lasts, you may be called up to the Europa League marathon before you know it.

Will Mata