In England, the Europa League is to the Champions League what the League Cup is to the FA Cup, an inferior competition seen only as a distraction or a platform to blood the kids.

UEFA’s attempts to revitalise its ‘prestigious’ baby were embarrassing exposed when a prompt sheet was discovered after Tottenham Hotspur’s pre-Panathinaikos press conference. There is a clear indication that Platini and co are desperate to restore the tournaments once great reputation, but is it even possible for the Europa League to be an attractive feature in modern football?

The profile of the competition is raised in other countries, but not England. I don’t understand it. I respect the competition. I certainly think it is viewed as a punishment in England and I cannot understand why.” (BBC)

These were the words of new Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas, highlighting yet another distinct difference with his predecessor Harry “We are not fighting for the Europa League” Redknapp. The Portuguese prodigy has shown no mercy in his strong team selections so far and will have undoubtedly been grateful for the opportunity to satisfy the disheartened Hugo Lloris.

The familiar chants of ‘Thursday Night, Channel 5’ epitomise the nation’s negative opinion. The Europa League features four more games than its infinitely more popular sister and while the Thursday-Sunday schedule may suit teams in Spain and Italy, it will anger the patrons of the Saturday 3pm kickoff.

The competitions profile in this country hasn’t exactly been helped by Championship side Birmingham City’s inclusion last season and Stoke City’s frankly humiliating ‘waving of the white flag’ upon their visit to Valencia. The heroic underdog fairytales of Leeds, Middlesbrough and more recently Fulham seem a distant memory and while the Manchester duos unexpected addition should have provided a much-needed surge in popularity, it served only as a source of ridicule as both teams made a swift exit.

ITV have snapped up the rights to this season’s television coverage, which should help improve viewing figures, although how anything can be made appealing using the face of Adrian Chiles remains to be seen. Nevertheless the exciting trio of Tottenham, Liverpool and Newcastle should allow us to compete with the technically superior teams and significantly increase our chance of success.

The aspect I admire most about the Europa League is the fact that it provides a stage for emerging talent to reveal itself. How many of you reading this were aware of Athletic Bilbao’s inspiring home grown philosophy or the prolific exploits of Radamel Falcao prior to last season? If Atletico Madrid had failed to win the trophy then Falcao would not have been gifted the chance to tear Chelsea apart in the Super Cup, which has in turn helped fuel speculation of his imminent arrival to the Premier League.

There is also an air of unpredictability about the Europa League, which makes it an intriguing and worthwhile viewing spectacle. Whereas the Champions League group stages are largely a formality, bar the customary surprise package, the fixtures of Thursday night are incredibly difficult to predict. Has anyone reading this ever won an accumulator on the Europa League because I definitely haven’t?

As appalling as it sounds, the first change that has to be implemented in order for every team to take the competition seriously, is to dramatically increase the prize money.

Winners of the Champions League take home £7.24m, while the Europa League winners earn a third of that and the difference in TV revenue is also vast” (BBC)

Secondly the format has to change, instead of mirroring the set-up in the Champions League, how about a lottery knockout format that focuses on just one match, with a seeding process in the early stages to keep the most attractive sides in? The competition can also no longer act as a safety net for Champions league dropouts because it serves only to devalue the stature of the other participants.

The Telegraph’s Rory Smith made a great suggestion regarding awarding the winner of the final a guaranteed place in next season’s Champions League. Let’s face it, the eventual winners will probably have had to beat a former team of the Champions League group stages on their route to the final and it also means managers can no longer use the excuse, ‘we’re concentrating on qualification via the league’.

It strikes me as common knowledge that the more you try and hail something as ‘cool’, the more people you end up alienating as a result. The Europa League has been the victim of a number of questionable decisions in the past and has suffered as a result. The competition will always pale in the comparison to the Champions League, so why not make some unique changes and allow it to evolve under a new identity.

 

Join me on Twitter @theunusedsub where I am currently being mesmorised by Bayern Munich’s Brazilian stars playing keepy-uppy with two balls!

 

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  • BlaDeBla
    2 years ago

    Traditionally for a club as successful as Utd it had to sacrifice the League Cup to make sure it could genuinely compete in Europe & when it came time for Utd to compete in the World Club Championships they even sacrificed the LFA Cup to the point the didnt even bother entering a team .

    How any other club in Engerland can claim that the FA cup or League cup is a lesser competition without winning & regularly competing for trebles is an absolute mystery .

    Clubs like Arsenal & LFC tried to keep up appearences by playing lesser sides in those competions so as not to apprea in Utd’s shadow but the fact is they were & they still are .

    As for the Europa no English club outside of perhaps Utd , Chelsea & Arsenal can afford to treat it as a lesser competition .

    Financially they possibly can but sportingly they cant because none of them are capable of winning it & for them to say its a lesser competition is no different to me saying that a Bentley is a lesser cat to a Ford Focus simply because I can afford one but cant afford the other .

    There is a culture within English Football of “Cant Win So Wont Try” .

    From that comes the flippant losers attitude that certain competitions dont matter .

    English Football is on an alarming slide & 99% of you are so smugly fond of the stink of each others Sh*t that you cant see the woods for the trees .

    So to answer the opening question I would have to ask is not the question …

    Can English Football retain its status as the richest in the world while continuing to destroy the spirit of the game by ruining the competitive nature of the sport ?

    Reply
    • Will Taylor
      2 years ago

      You raise some interesting points, however while the “Cant Win So Wont Try” mantra may apply to the Europa League (see Stoke), I don’t think it applies to the domestic cup competitions (see the League Cup finalists for past several seasons).

      Also the point you make about ‘English Football retaining its status as the richest in the world’ is arguably the sole reason clubs don’t take the Europa League seriously. As I mentioned in the article the financial rewards on offer are a fraction of the Champions League payouts.

      At present the Europa League is simply the Champions League, without any of the major benefits.

      Reply
      • BlaDeBla
        2 years ago

        So wats yer point about the league cup finalists ?

        Liverpool V Cardiff
        Arsenal V Birmingham
        Utd V Villa
        Utd V Spurs
        Spurs V Chelsea
        Chelsea V Arsenal
        Utd V Wigan

        I stand by my comment .

        Even this season WBA had the cheek to field a reserve team against the cup holders Liverpool .

        Why ?

        Because they felt they couldnt win the competition & secure their league status hence “Cant Win Wont Try”

        Arsenal , famous for winning nothing in a long time while penny pinching have made the final frequently but they have done it by fielding reserve players because they were chasing other prizes or more accurately , league positions & profits hence “Cant Win Wont Try” .

        It is a culture within English Football & that culture has destroyed the competitive nature of the game .

        The prize & appearance money a team makes from the Champions League is buttons compared to what they make from merchandise sales & advertisements due to appearing in that competition , its not even enough to buy a decent striker capable of scoring regularly in that competition .

        So to say that the prize money in the Europa which is more than double what you get for the FA & League cup combined isnt worth it is ridiculous .

        To try & claim that a club playing Games televised in every European Country & televised around the world isnt going to increase its fan base , increase its merchandise sales & increase its advertisement revenue streams is just plain stupid .

        The fact is that the clubs feel its unlikely that they will win it so instead of appearing to be beaten by a less prestigious but good European club the Engerlish sides prefer to appear like they dont care about the competition .

        Its bullshit , its “Cant Win , Wont Try”

        Fact of the matter is that the gravy train of Football investment left Italy & relocated in Engerland & now the Engerlish clubs are trying to protect their wealthy status by making sure the image isnt tarnished by being beaten in the Europa by quality teams from less prestigious leagues & or failing to win the competition outright & getting egg on their faces .

        I say that the sooner the major football investment returns to a more capable , more morally responsible European country like Germany that the better it will be for the sport within the game of football because in Engerlish hands all we see is trashy prostitute clubs like Arsenal gloating about profits while delivering zero success , competitions devalued & the civil libertys of fans being attacked for expressing themselves at football matches .

        Engerlish football is sh*t on so many levels .

        Reply
  • Wigan Blue
    2 years ago

    “Can the competition ever take on a significance in football?”

    The competition are significant in every match that every team in England plays every week. If they aren’t to you, then don’t bother watching…

    Reply
    • BlaDeBla
      2 years ago

      Well in Wigan .

      Reply
  • stuart senior
    2 years ago

    bla de bla what no mention of city

    Reply
    • BlaDeBla
      2 years ago

      What have City ever done in Europe ?

      Which two or 3 trophys did they chase in a single season ?

      City are nobodys in this conversation hence no mention of them .

      Capishe ?

      Reply