The Europa League has been very entertaining at times this season, but it is still “The Loser Cup” as Franz Beckenbauer branded it. Rightfully so – it is just a consolation tournament. That’s why Valencia decided to give free tickets to their semi-final home game this season.
When clubs are giving away free tickets to the second leg of a semifinal, it might be a sign that the competition needs revamping (or maybe even cancelling). Why? Well, the traditional “Loser cup” tag definitely has a part in that, but also because of very practical and financial reasons.
In 2010/11 the Europa League distributed €150m between the 56 clubs reaching the competition’s group stage and beyond. This is only about 20% of the €754m handed out to the 32 clubs that qualified to the Champions League group stage.
This is way too little money to make this competition important for many clubs.
That is true for the clubs that want to compete in the Champions League, but also for many of the smaller, less ambitious ones.
According to Deloitte “some clubs, particularly those in the highest revenue-generating leagues, point out the difficulty in balancing progression in the Europa League with the demands of other competitions, which often provides clubs with contrasting priorities, especially if the distributions from domestic leagues are substantial. For example, finishing a place higher at the end of the Premier League season is worth £0.8m.”
This means that for even a small English team it’s more worthwhile to put in the effort to finishing 7th in the Premier League instead of 10th. That’s because ending the season three spots higher will earn them £2.4m – almost three times the income that the Europa League group stage gives them (£0.88m).
The Europa League in its current state should be scrapped, really.UEFA president Michel Platini has also reached this conclusion, and is now contemplating the idea of scrapping the Europa League in favour of extending the Champions League to 64 teams in four years time.
It’s a good idea, but in order for it to work really well – UEFA need to think of a whole new model for European competition.