UEFA announces details of third-tier European competition

October 10, 2019 4:58 pm

It may have been initially confirmed last December but at the end of last month, further details were revealed about the new third-tier European competition, due to kick-off in the 2021-22 season – the UEFA Europa Conference League. Football fans worldwide are no doubt left scratching their heads, due to there being no real need for an additional European competition. The low-rent name will surely amuse the UK contingent, following suit of the division below the English Football League Two, which has undergone many name changes over the years – Skrill Premier or Vanarama Conference, anyone? If UEFA are serious about a third-tier competition, to as they say “give more clubs in more countries a chance to participate in Europe”, surely the competition could be given a more credible name or one that rivals the prestige of its two counterparts?

What do we know so far?

The Europa League group stages will be reduced from 48 teams, to 32 – no doubt impacting UEFA Europa League betting – while the Europa Conference League will also comprise of 32 teams. The competition will be league and knock-out based, beginning with the group stages and eight groups of four, before the top two progress to the round of 16, where they will meet the ‘lucky losers’ of the Europa League, those that have finished third in their respective groups. Matches will take place on a Thursday, much like the Europa League of current, with UEFA planning for the games to be played at a similar time (5:45pm and 8:00pm UK time).

The ‘big five’ leagues of Europe will all be guaranteed one place and it will be down to the national football associations of England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain to decide the criteria for each team’s place. This means that the five nations will also receive fewer Europa League places – two.

The competition spells danger for nations below 15th in UEFA’s co-efficient rankings, as non-champion teams will no longer be eligible for the Europa League and instead, will be put straight into the Europa Conference League – for example, Rangers and Basel this season.

How will it affect the Premier League?

The main talking point is that the winner of the Carabao Cup (historically and formerly known as the League Cup) will receive an automatic place in the Europa Conference League. However, if this team has already earned a place in European competition, the seventh-placed team in the Premier League will receive the place instead. This in turn means that the top four of the Premier League will play in the Champions League, with fifth and sixth-placed sides receiving a place in the Europa League. 

Using last season as an example, as Manchester City won the EFL Cup and the Premier League, thus earning their place in the Champions League, Wolverhampton Wanderers (who finished seventh) would have been awarded a place in the Europa Conference League, as opposed to the second-tier Europa League (albeit the qualifying stages).

The ‘big six’ of the Premier League were previously against an overhaul of competitive European football, due to the financial importance of the League Cup and it could well spell disaster for the future of the competition. England are one of few European leagues (and the only of the ‘big five’) that have two domestic cup competitions, with France recently deciding to scrap the Coupe de la Ligue as of next season.

How will this affect the other European competitions?

The introduction of the Europa Conference League will have no bearing on the Champions League, but the Europa League will be affected. In a similar vein to the third-placed teams of the group stage of the Champions League being relegated to the Europa League, teams that finish third in the Europa League group stage will be demoted to the Europa Conference League.

Similarly, the winners of the Europa Conference League will earn a guaranteed spot in the Europa League, the same way that the winners of the Europa League gain instant qualification to the following season’s Champions League.

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