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UEFA confirm new crazy third competition to run alongside Champions League and Europa

5 months ago
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The UEFA Europa Conference League, have you even heard of it?

I’m guessing the majority of you reading this probably haven’t and certainly few of you will be aware that in only seven months time this competition will kick off?

Basically, this is going to be a return to having three European competitions.

For older fans, back in the day it was relatively simple…

European Cup was for clubs who had won their domestic league title.

European Cup Winners Cup was for clubs who had won domestic cup competitions.

UEFA Cup basically for those who had finished towards the top of their domestic leagues without winning the title.

It was all very exciting, as basically a free draw where anybody could play anybody in all three competitions and those teams met in a two legged tie to decide who went through each round.

Indeed the very opposite of the nonsense we see now, nonsense that is set to get even worse.

Everything now is about having as many matches as possible to make more money, with group stages ensuring loads of meaningless games as many teams basically qualify after three or four of the six group matches, with also seeding used to ensure as much as possible that the ‘right’ teams go through and any surprises (excitement!!!) is kept to a bare minimum.

Imagine how much more exciting a free draw would be, a straight knockout like it used to be? Imagine Bayern Munich against Liverpool in the first round? Or even failing that, a free draw and a group stage that might see Real Madrid, Juventus, Man City and PSG all thrown into the same group and only two go through, instead of the stale predictable procession that happens 95% of the time.

Anyway, I can only guess that with so much other madness in the world at the moment, both in football and life in general, that this is the reason his ridiculous UEFA Europa Conference League hasn’t been bigger news. As in, what on earth is this all about????

In their official statement (see below) confirming the UEFA Europa Conference League is going ahead, UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin: “The new UEFA club competition makes UEFA’s club competitions more inclusive than ever before. There will be more matches for more clubs, with more associations represented in the group stages.”

The statement also including: ‘The new structure for UEFA club competitions will ensure that at least 34 UEFA national associations are represented in the group stage of one or more competitions.’

Basically, UEFA are wanting to build up their support amongst the smaller football nations by giving (almost literally) everybody European football.

The problem is that clubs from smaller / less powerful football leagues are desperate to be involved in European football competitions BUT their dream is to play in the Champions League, not this new nonsense.

The idea is to standardise the three competitions, so just like the Champions League, after qualifying rounds, both the Europa League and this new UEFA Europa Conference League will have 32 clubs in eight groups.

The UEFA Europa Conference League will have a load of teams competing who will have fallen out of both the Champions League and Europa League.

Instead of glory and more money for all, in this new third competition you will end up with a huge number of matches where small clubs from smaller leagues are flying around to play each other in front of a handful of fans.

Wondering what the big prize is for winning the UEFA Europa Conference League? It is a place in the next season’s Europa League! Wow!!

The idea is for more European competition availability for smaller leagues, so England wouldn’t get extra European spots in the competition, instead you would have seen Tottenham playing in it this season instead of the Europa League. Honestly, just how serious would they have taken it???

A bit like in many of the ways in how VAR has been utilised, you wonder how UEFA can come up with such a mess of a new competition that defies all logic?

It also looks particularly daft to be introducing that will involve loads of extra clubs travelling around Europe and playing extra matches, when we are still in the midst of dealing with the virus crisis. We have already seen with Newcastle United how even a Premier League club can end up with a serious virus outbreak despite having the resources to ensure regular testing. When it comes to a lot of these extra smaller clubs that will be taking part and the leagues that will be supplying them, they won’t be able to afford anything like the same level of testing and other safety measures.

UEFA OFFICIAL CONFIRMATION STATEMENT:

There will be a third season-long UEFA men’s football club competition for the first time in more than 20 years next season when the UEFA Europa Conference League begins. We explain who will be involved and when games will be played.

Who enters the UEFA Europa Conference League?

In all, 184 teams will be involved over the course of the season including at least one from each of the 55 associations and 46 clubs transferring from either the UEFA Champions League or UEFA Europa League.

Before the group stage there will be three qualifying rounds and a play-off round (split into a main path, and a champions path for those transferring from the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League champions path). The access list explains which teams (including some national cup winners) enter from which associations and in which rounds, as well as how clubs transfer from the other competitions.

No teams qualify directly for the group stage, with the 32 teams consisting of:

• 17 teams from the UEFA Europa Conference League main path

• 5 teams from the UEFA Europa Conference League champions path

• 10 teams eliminated in the UEFA Europa League play-offs

How will it work?

There will be eight groups of four teams, followed by knockout round play-offs, the round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.

The eight group winners automatically go through to the last 16. Additional knockout round play-offs will then be played before the round of 16 between the eight group runners-up and the third-ranked teams of the UEFA Europa League groups.

First final: Tirana

The 21,690-capacity National Arena (Arena Kombëtare) will stage the first final on 25 May 2022, as announced by the UEFA Executive Committee on 3 December 2020. The stadium opened in November 2019 with a European Qualifier between Albania and France. It was built, with the help of UEFA’s HatTrick assistance programme, on the site of the former Qemal Stafa Stadium in the centre of the Albanian capital.

When are the games?

The UEFA Europa Conference League fixtures will take place on Thursdays along with UEFA Europa League games (though the final in Tirana will be a week after the UEFA Europa League final in Sevilla on 18 May 2020). The matches of the two competitions will in principle be equally split between the two time slots: 18:45 CET (no longer 18:55) and 21:00 CET. Draw dates are to be confirmed.

First qualifying round: 8 & 15 July

Second qualifying round: 22 & 29 July

Third qualifying round: 5 & 12 August

Play-offs: 19 & 26 August

Group stage: 16 & 30 September, 21 October, 4 & 25 November, 9 December

Knockout round play-offs: 17 & 24 February

Round of 16: 10 & 17 March

Quarter-finals: 7 & 14 April

Semi-finals: 28 April & 5 May

Final: 25 May (National Arena, Tirana)

The competition will run throughout the 2021–2024 cycle at least.

What do the winners get?

The winner will gain a place in the following season’s UEFA Europa League group stage if they have not qualified for the UEFA Champions League via their domestic competition.

Why is it being introduced?

The new structure for UEFA club competitions will ensure that at least 34 UEFA national associations are represented in the group stage of one or more competitions.

There will be a minimum of 14 domestic champions in the UEFA Champions League group stage, between eight and 11 domestic champions in the UEFA Europa League group stage, and between nine and 12 domestic champions in the UEFA Europa Conference League group stage. All member associations will have access to all three club competitions, and all associations’ quotas will remain unchanged.

UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin said: “The new UEFA club competition makes UEFA’s club competitions more inclusive than ever before. There will be more matches for more clubs, with more associations represented in the group stages.”

Will it impact the other competitions?

The introduction of the UEFA Europa Conference League will have no impact on the UEFA Champions League. However, the UEFA Europa League group stage will be reduced from 48 to 32 teams – eight groups of four.

The eight UEFA Europa League group winners progress automatically to the round of 16. There will also be additional knockout round play-offs prior to the UEFA Europa League round of 16; these will be between the eight UEFA Europa League group runners-up and the eight third-ranked teams of the UEFA Champions League groups.

The UEFA Europa League access list will also change accordingly, with the previous season’s UEFA Europa Conference League winners joined in the group stage by 11 teams who qualify directly via their domestic associations. Additionally, ten teams will come through UEFA Europa League qualifying and a further ten from UEFA Champions League qualifying.

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