Can we take the Europa League seriously?
The Europa League qualifying rounds continue in earnest with Liverpool now joining the fray. However, Europe’s second-tier competition has come under criticism for being too bloated and being a haven for Champions League failures.
The Europa League format is like a maze to navigate through, and certainly some English sides long for the exit. Clubs lucky enough to avoid early qualifiers still have to play in a play-off round over two legs,to even get to a six-match group stage of four teams. The top two teams advance which should leave 24, however UEFA parachute 8 Champions League sides who finished 3rd in their Champions League groups into the first knockout round leaving 32 teams. So, teams advancing from the Europa League group stage have to play eight games (or more) to get to the first knockout phase, no wonder British sides tend to put out second string sides, such as Tottenham last season. Fulham’s epic run to the final three seasons ago saw them accumulate over half a Premier League’s season’s worth of games to get to the final.
The gulf in prize money between the Champions League and the Europa League also appear to provide more evidence of why some teams don’t bother. Obviously, the tournament can provide huge benefits for sides with little chance of qualifying for the Champions League. A case in point being Shamrock Rovers from the Republic of Ireland becoming the first Irish side in history to qualify for a major tournament. Their run provided a financial boost of nearly £1 million.
However, considering the financial strength of the Premier League, the Europa League money for English sides pales almost into insignificance, and success in the Premier League is a higher priority. Major alterations need to happen for the competition to be looked at more favourably by the top sides, otherwise it will continue to be a unnecessary distraction in most managers’ eyes.