The 2011–12 UEFA Europa League was the third season of the UEFA Europa League, Europe's secondary club football tournament organised by UEFA, and the 41st edition overall including its predecessor, the UEFA Cup. It began on 30 June 2011 with the first legs of the first qualifying round, and ended on 9 May 2012 with the final held at Arena Națională in Bucharest, Romania. As part of a trial that started in the 2009–10 UEFA Europa League, two extra officials – one on each goal line – were used in all matches of the competition from the group stage.
A total of 194 teams from 53 UEFA associations participated in the 2011–12 UEFA Europa League. Associations are allocated places according to their 2010 UEFA country coefficients, which takes into account their performance in European competitions from 2005–06 to 2009–10.
Below is the qualification scheme for the 2011–12 UEFA Europa League:
Associations 1–6 each have three teams qualify
Associations 7–9 each have four teams qualify
Associations 10–51 each have three teams qualify, except Liechtenstein, which have one team qualify (as Liechtenstein only have a domestic cup and no domestic league)
Since the winners of the 2010–11 UEFA Europa League, Porto, qualified for the 2011–12 UEFA Champions League through domestic performance, the title holder spot reserved for them in the group stage was vacated. As a result, the following changes to the default allocation system were made to compensate for the vacant title holder spot in the group stage:
The domestic cup winners of associations 16 and 17 (Scotland and Bulgaria) were promoted from the third qualifying round to the play-off round.
The domestic cup winners of associations 28 and 29 (Belarus and Republic of Ireland) were promoted from the second qualifying round to the third qualifying round.
The domestic cup winners of associations 52 and 53 (Malta and San Marino) and the domestic league runners-up of associations 33 and 34 (Latvia and Moldova) were promoted from the first qualifying round to the second qualifying round.
Teams entering in this round
Teams advancing from previous round
Teams transferred from Champions League
First qualifying round
18 domestic league runners-up from associations 35–53 (except Liechtenstein)
29 domestic league third-placed teams from associations 22–51 (except Liechtenstein)
A Europa League place is vacated when a team qualifies for both the Champions League and the Europa League, or qualifies for the Europa League by more than one method. When a place is vacated, it is redistributed within the national association by the following rules:
When the domestic cup winners (considered as the "highest-placed" qualifiers within the national association) also qualify for the Champions League, their Europa League place is vacated, and the remaining Europa League qualifiers are moved up one place, with the final place (with the earliest starting round) taken by the domestic cup runners-up, provided they do not already qualify for the Champions League or the Europa League. Otherwise, this place is taken by the highest-placed league finishers that have not yet qualified for the Europa League.
When the domestic cup winners also qualify for the Europa League through league position, their place through the league position is vacated, and the Europa League qualifiers that finish lower in the league are moved up one place, with the final place taken by the highest-placed league finishers that have not yet qualified for the Europa League.
A place vacated by the League Cup winners is taken by the highest-placed league finishers that have not yet qualified for the Europa League.
A Fair Play place is taken by the highest-ranked team in the domestic Fair Play table that has not yet qualified for the Champions League or the Europa League.
Kazakhstan (KAZ): Because Lokomotiv Astana, the winners of the 2010 Kazakhstan Cup, did not exist for at least three years and could not obtain a UEFA license, the second-placed team of the league, Aktobe, moved up to enter the second qualifying round, and the cup runners-up, Shakhter Karagandy, claimed the vacant Europa League spot in the first qualifying round.
Lithuania (LTU): Because Žalgiris Vilnius, the third-placed team of the 2010 A Lyga, did not obtain a UEFA license for the 2011–12 European competitions, Tauras Tauragė, the fourth-placed team of the league, claimed the Europa League spot in the second qualifying round.
Romania (ROU): Because Politehnica Timişoara, the 2010–11 Liga I runners-up, were denied a domestic licence for the 2011–12 season, Vaslui, the third-placed team of the league, claimed the Champions League spot in the third qualifying round for non-champions, instead of entering the Europa League play-off round. Subsequently, Rapid București and Dinamo București, the fourth- and sixth-placed teams of the league, moved up to enter the play-off round and the third qualifying round respectively, and Gaz Metan Mediaș, the seventh-placed team of the league, claimed the vacant Europa League spot in the second qualifying round.
Note 4: Order of legs reversed after original draw.
Note 5: Greek club Olympiakos Volou, who had reached the play-off round, were excluded from the competition by UEFA on 11 August 2011 for their involvement in the Koriopolis match-fixing scandal. UEFA decided to replace them in the play-off round with Differdange 03 from Luxembourg, who had lost to Olympiakos Volou in the previous round.
Note 7: Celtic lodged protests over the eligibility of a number of the Sion players who participated in the two legs of the play-off round, which Sion won 3–1 aggregate (first leg: 0–0; second leg: 3–1). The UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body accepted the protests and decided to award both matches to Celtic by forfeit (3–0). As a consequence, Celtic qualified for the UEFA Europa League group stage.
Location of teams of the 2011–12 UEFA Europa League group stage. Red: Group A; Yellow: Group B; Green: Group C; Black: Group D; Purple: Group E; Pink: Group F; Blue: Group G; Orange: Group H; Brown: Group I; Deep pink: Group J; Cyan: Group K; Spring green: Group L.
The group stage features 48 teams, which were allocated into pots based on their 2011 UEFA club coefficients, and then drawn into twelve groups of four. Teams from the same association cannot be drawn against each other. The draw was held on 26 August 2011 in Monaco.
In each group, teams play against each other home-and-away in a round-robin format. The matchdays are 15 September, 29 September, 20 October, 3 November, 30 November – 1 December, and 14–15 December 2011. The group winners and runners-up advanced to the round of 32, where they were joined by the 8 third-placed teams from the group stage of the 2011–12 UEFA Champions League.
If two or more teams are equal on points on completion of the group matches, the following criteria are applied to determine the rankings (in descending order):
higher number of points obtained in the group matches played among the teams in question;
superior goal difference from the group matches played among the teams in question;
higher number of goals scored in the group matches played among the teams in question;
higher number of goals scored away from home in the group matches played among the teams in question;
If, after applying criteria 1) to 4) to several teams, two teams still have an equal ranking, the criteria 1) to 4) will be reapplied to determine the ranking of these teams;
superior goal difference from all group matches played;
higher number of goals scored from all group matches played;
higher number of coefficient points accumulated by the club in question, as well as its association, over the previous five seasons.
A total of 24 national associations are represented in this group stage (including Scotland after Celtic were reinstated into the Europa League over Sion), with England having the most teams, with four.
Key to colours in group tables
Group winners and runners-up advance to the round of 32
In the knockout phase, teams play against each other over two legs on a home-and-away basis, except for the one-match final. The draw for the round of 32 and round of 16 was held on 16 December 2011. The draws for the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final (to determine the "home" team) were held on 16 March 2012. Both draws were assisted by Romanian footballer Miodrag Belodedici, the ambassador for the 2012 final.
In the draw for the round of 32, the twelve group winners and the four better third-placed teams from the Champions League group stage (based on their match record in the group stage) are seeded, and the twelve group runners-up and the other four third-placed teams from the Champions League group stage are unseeded. A seeded team is drawn against an unseeded team, with the seeded team hosting the second leg. Teams from the same group or the same association cannot be drawn against each other. In the draws for the round of 16 onwards, there are no seedings, and teams from the same group or the same association may be drawn with each other.