I have just watched some of Spurs vs. Maribor in the Europa League. It was an interesting match and we won but I just can’t get excited about this competition. It is the European equivalent of the League Cup. Winning it would be nice, but when the games come round they just seem like a distraction.
In its present format the Europa League has several problems. Firstly there are too many games. It’s like when League Cup ties had two legs. When it’s not the premier competition why drag it out.
Secondly it is so obviously the inferior European competition. In recent times it has suffered greatly from the success of its sister competition as the Champions League has taken more of the top teams and more of the limelight. UEFA’s solution – to try to copy the successful Champions League format – has made it even more patently the poor man’s trophy, just a pale imitation. What the Europa League needs is some way to differentiate itself.
Thirdly the introduction of failed teams from the Champions League group stages has demeaned the competition. You spend months playing interminable group games to get through to the knockout stages only for a whole load of new teams to be added to the competition. This emphasises the other two points; the number of games is increased and the second class status underlined.
So here is my three point plan to save the Europa League:
- 1. Make it a knockout tournament from the start.
This will reduce the number of games, particularly meaningless ones. It will add an element of excitement that is not found in a league format and add some nostalgia for the way European competition used to be. It will also give it a reason for existing, a clearly separate identity to the Champions League, not an imitation.
- 2. Don’t allow Champions League clubs to drop into the competition.
Again this will reduce the number of games and help dispel the feeling of a second class competition.
- 3. Change the name.
After these changes the competition will no longer be a league so it will need a new name. Also it would be worthwhile to take this opportunity to rebrand for a fresh start. My suggestion is to call it the “UEFA Cup”.
Do you agree? Please leave your comments below.