What’s the point of the Europa League?

by Ashleigh Rose

Friday, March 18th, 2011
 

I know that’s a bold statement right off the bat, but I’m getting genuinely baffled by a competition that clubs, players and particularly UEFA consistently treat as the Champions League’s annoying little brother. So by the end of last night’s ‘entertainment’ I found myself asking this exact question rhetorically, because there seems to no love left for UEFA’s secondary competition.

When the competition was rebranded from the old UEFA Cup in 2009, it was meant to herald in a new era for the tournament and put it up there alongside the Champions League as a prestigious European competition to win. But instead, the competition and ‘glamour’ has simply decreased and this season alone the competition has been plagued by low attendances, clubs fielding weakened line-ups and games that have been so dull I’ve actually started to favour ITV dramas’ instead of some ‘cream’ of European football.

Since combining with the Cup Winners Cup in 1999, a competition that in hindsight UEFA were took quick to do away with, the clamor of talking part in the Europa (is that even a word?) let alone winning the thing has diminished. A notion highlighted by Liverpool’s line-up for most of the competition this season and Martin O’Neill’s infamous decision to field a Villa line-up full of reservers and youngsters to preserve an outside chance of his team finishing fourth in 2009’s league campaign. In other words, the competition holds little priority to these teams until it’s the last thing to play for.

The process of having the Champions League group losers enter the competition was meant to help give the competition a better competitive edge and more glamour sides, but more often these teams add nothing to the competitions later stages and games have become far less entertaining then any those in the Champions League or in UEFA Cup competitions gone by. And why should these Champions League losers be allowed into the Europa League anyway – just because they blew their European shot? How can the tournament be viewed anywhere near the level of the Champions League when it’s seen as a consolation to even be in the thing – are the teams that qualified in the first place deemed not good enough to win it by Platini and his cronies?

As we saw last season with Fulham’s amazing run to the final, this competition is not all together dead but it is on life support. For it to reach the level it’s supposed to it needs UEFA to get rid the finicky group stages at the start, when even the Cottagers themselves fielded reserve line-ups last season, and get it back to straight knock-out. Ignore the Champions League losers and run with the teams who earned their place in the competition first and foremost. The clubs too, need to take it more seriously, after all what will players and fans care about more in twenty years time; that 15th place finish in the Premier League or that memorable night in Europe when the club held aloft silverware? The ironic thing last night was seeing Liverpool limp out of the competition, only for then vow to do everything they can to be in it next season. Why will they care anymore for it this time next year? Like Arsenal in this season’s Carling Cup you can’t pick and choose when and at what point these competitions are best for you, just because you’re now desperate to win anything. The Europa League shouldn’t just be anything, the UEFA Cup never was – and something needs to be done to ensure the Europa league isn’t either, otherwise was really is the point?

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  • stan

    it reminds me a fuck buddy, you want some but your heart isn’t really in it.

  • Claire

    @Stan – possibly the greatest comment ever 🙂

  • stan

    thanks Claire, it was rather good, even if I so myself

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