The Europa League: Like the UEFA Cup But With More SponsorsBy: Daryl | September 26th, 2008
Sounds new and exciting, yes? Well, maybe, but it’s basically just a rebranded UEFA Cup, with a more meaty group stage. Here are the details straight from UEFA’s website:
The new name heralds major changes to the competition, which will have a new 48-team group stage with centralised marketing of broadcast rights, a presenting sponsor and an official matchball in addition to centralised sponsorship from the knockout stage and a new logo and visual identity.
So UEFA have followed just one of our 10 Ways to Improve the UEFA Cup, and that was to finally get a new matchball.
I don’t want to pick on the UEFA Cup because it gets an unfairly bad press, and actually features some consistently good football (apart from when Rangers are playing) but seems to me that the majority of the changes here involve rebranding and new sponsorship deals.
The only alteration to the actual format seems to be the new 48 team group stage with home and away games, similar to (but with more teams than) the Champions League group stage.
But what the UEFA Cup didn’t need to mimic the Champions League, it needed to differentiate itself. I was – and still am – all in favour of it being a straight knockout competition, because only the truly massive tournaments (World Cup, Euros, Champions Leagues, Cope Lib etc) can get away with having a group stage.
So seems to me that the Europa League is going to be either a) the UEFA Cup with delusions of grandeur or b) a poor man’s Champions League, or maybe c) all of the above.