UEFA Europa League
|Founded||1971 (2009 in its current format)|
|Number of teams||48 (group stage)
+8 clubs join after Champions League group stage
|Current champions||Sevilla (3rd title)|
|Most successful club(s)|| Juventus
(3 titles each)
|Television broadcasters||List of broadcasters|
|2014–15 UEFA Europa League|
The UEFA Europa League, previously called the UEFA Cup, is an annual men's association football club competition organized by UEFA since 1971 for eligible European football clubs. Clubs qualify for the competition based on their performance in their national leagues and cup competitions.
Previously called the UEFA Cup, the competition has been known as the UEFA Europa League since the 2009–10 season, following a change in format. For UEFA footballing records purposes, the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League are considered the same competition, with the change of name being simply a rebranding.
In 1999, the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup was abolished and merged with the UEFA Cup. For the 2004–05 competition a group stage was added prior to the knockout phase. The 2009 re-branding included a merge with the UEFA Intertoto Cup, producing an enlarged competition format, with an expanded group stage and changed qualifying criteria. The winner of the UEFA Europa League qualifies for the UEFA Super Cup and from the 2015-2016 season onwards the winners of the previous season's UEFA Europa League will qualify for the UEFA Champions League, the winner entering at least at the play-off round (assuming they do not already qualify through domestic performance), and will enter the group stage if the berth reserved for the Champions League title holders is not used.
The title has been won by 27 different clubs, 12 of which have won the title more than once. The most successful clubs in the competition are Juventus, Internazionale, Liverpool and Sevilla with three titles apiece. Since the tournament changed name and structure in 2009, no club has managed consecutive wins. Sevilla are the current champions after beating Benfica 4–2 on penalties in the 2014 UEFA Europa League Final.
The UEFA Cup was preceded by the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, which was a European football competition played between 1955 and 1971. The competition grew from 11 teams during the first cup (1955–58) to 64 teams by the last cup which was played in 1970–71. It had become so important on the European football scene that in the end it was taken over by UEFA and relaunched the following season as the UEFA Cup.
The UEFA Cup was first played in the 1971–72 season, with an all-English final of Wolverhampton Wanderers versus Tottenham Hotspur, with Spurs taking the first honours. The title was retained by another English club, Liverpool in 1973, beating Borussia Mönchengladbach in the final. Borussia would win the competition in 1975 and 1979, and reach the final again in 1980. Liverpool won the competition for the second time in 1976, beating Club Brugge in the final.
During the 1980s, IFK Göteborg (1982 and 1987) and Real Madrid (1985 and 1986) won the competition twice each, with Anderlecht reaching two consecutive finals, winning in 1983 and losing to Tottenham Hotspur in 1984. 1989 saw the commencement of the Italian clubs' domination, when Maradona's Napoli beat Stuttgart. The 1990s started with two all-Italian finals, and in 1992, Torino lost the final to Ajax on the away goals rule. Juventus won the competition for a third time in 1993 and Internazionale kept the cup in Italy the following year. 1995 saw a third all-Italian final, with Parma proving their consistency, after two consecutive Cup Winners' Cup finals. The only final with no Italians during that decade was in 1996. Internazionale reached the final the following two years, losing in 1997 to Schalke on penalties, and winning yet another all-Italian final in 1998, taking home the cup for the third time in only eight years. Parma won the cup in 1999, which ended the Italian club era.
Liverpool won the competition for the third time in 2001 and Porto triumphed in the 2003 and 2011 tournaments, with the latter against fellow Portuguese team Braga. In 2004, the cup returned to Spain with Valencia being victorious, and then Sevilla succeeded on two consecutive occasions in 2006 and 2007, the latter in a final against fellow Spaniards Espanyol. Either side of Sevilla's success, two Russian teams, CSKA Moscow in 2005 and Zenit Saint Petersburg in 2008, had their glory and yet another former Soviet club, Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk, won in 2009. Atlético Madrid would themselves win twice in three seasons, in 2010 and 2012, the latter in another all-Spanish final. In 2013, Chelsea would become the first Champions League holders to win the UEFA Cup/Europa League the following year. In 2014 Sevilla wins their third cup in eight years after beating Benfica, thus becoming Spain's sixth cup from 2004 to 2014.
The competition was traditionally open to the runners-up of domestic leagues, but the competition was merged with UEFA's previous second-tier European competition, the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, in 1999. Since then, the winners of domestic cup competitions have also entered the UEFA Cup. Also, clubs eliminated in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League and the third placed teams at the end of the group phase could go on to compete in the UEFA Cup. Also admitted to the competition are three Fair Play representatives and winners of some selected domestic League Cup competitions.
The winners keep the trophy for a year before returning it to UEFA. After its return, the club can keep a four-fifths scale replica of the original trophy.
Four teams have won the UEFA Cup as well as their domestic league and cup competitions in the same season, those being IFK Göteborg in 1982, Galatasaray in 2000, FC Porto in 2003 and 2011, and CSKA Moscow in 2005. This accomplishment is known as a treble that only Galatasaray completed with the European Super Cup. Additionally, Tottenham Hotspur, Borussia Mönchengladbach, IFK Göteborg (twice), AFC Ajax, Galatasaray, and Feyenoord are the only teams to have won the cup without suffering a single loss in their campaign. RCD Espanyol is the single runner-up without a defeat. IFK Göteborg played 25 consecutive matches in the UEFA Cup between 1980 and 1987 without a single loss, including their 1981–82 and 1986–87 winning campaigns.
Since the 2009–10 season, the competition has been known as the UEFA Europa League. At the same time, the UEFA Intertoto Cup, UEFA's third-tier competition, was discontinued and merged into the new Europa League.
The UEFA Cup, also known as the Coupe UEFA, is the trophy awarded annually by UEFA to the football club that wins the UEFA Europa League. Before the 2009–10 season, both the competition and the trophy were known as 'the UEFA Cup'.
Before the competition was renamed the UEFA Europa League in the 2009–10 season, the UEFA regulations stated that a club could keep the original trophy upon their third consecutive win or fifth win overall. However under the new regulations the trophy remains in UEFA's keeping at all times. A full-size replica trophy is awarded to each winner of the competition. Also a club that wins three consecutive times or five times overall will receive a 'special mark of recognition'.
The competition's anthem was composed by Yohann Zveig and recorded by the Paris Opera in early 2009. The theme for the re-branded UEFA Cup competition was first officially unveiled at the Grimaldi Forum on 28 August 2009 before the 2009–10 season group stage draw. The anthem is to be played before every Europa League game at a stadium hosting such an event and also before every television broadcast of a Europa League game as a musical element of the competition's opening sequence.
Qualification for the competition is based on UEFA coefficients, with better entrance rounds being offered to the more successful nations. In practice, each association has a standard number of three berths, excluding:
- Nations ranked 7 to 9, which have four berths
- Nations ranked 52 and 53 (Andorra and San Marino in the 2013–14 season), which have two berths
- The nation ranked 54 (Gibraltar in the 2014-15 season) which has one berth.
- Liechtenstein, which qualifies only the Cup Winners
Usually, places are awarded to teams who finish in various runners-up places in the top-flight leagues of Europe and the winners of the main cup competitions. A few countries have secondary cup competitions but the only countries which currently grant a UEFA Europa League place to their secondary cup winners are England and France.
If the previous UEFA Europa League title-holders are not eligible to take part in either of the current UEFA club competitions (UEFA Champions League or UEFA Europa League) by virtue of their domestic form, the UEFA Administration may, at the request of the association of the club concerned, admit this club to the current UEFA Europa League competition. Its participation will not be at the expense of the contingent of its association.
Qualification can be quite complicated if one team qualifies for European competition through two different routes. In all cases, if a club is eligible to enter the UEFA Champions League then the Champions League place takes precedence and the club does not enter the UEFA Europa League. The UEFA Europa League place is then granted to another club. If a team qualifies for European competition through both winning a cup and league placing, the "spare" UEFA Europa League place will go to either the cup runners-up or the highest placed league team which has not already qualified for European competition, depending on the rules of the national association.
Three more berths are given to federations that finish above a certain level in UEFA's Fair Play table. The top three federations automatically receive a Fair Play entry if their rating is at least 8.0. The berth goes to the highest-placed team in the Fair Play table of that country's top league that has not already qualified for Europe.
More recently, clubs that are knocked out of the qualifying round and the group stage of the Champions League can also join the UEFA Europa League, at different stages (see below).
UEFA coefficients were introduced in 1980 and, until 1999, they gave a greater number of berths in UEFA Cup to the more successful nations. Three nations had four places, five nations had three places, thirteen nations had two places, and eleven nations only one place. Since 1999, a similar system has been used for the UEFA Champions League. Before 1980, the entrance criteria of the last Fairs Cup was used.
The competition was traditionally a pure knockout tournament. All ties were two-legged, including the final. Starting with the 1997–98 season, the final became a one-off match, but all other ties remained two-legged.
Before the 2004–05 season, the tournament consisted of one qualifying round, followed by a series of knockout rounds. The sixteen non-qualifiers from the final qualifying round of the Champions League entered at the first round proper; later in the tournament, the survivors were joined by third-place finishers from the (first) group phase of the Champions League.
From the 2004–05 season, the competition started with two knockout qualifying rounds held in July and August. Participants from associations ranked 18 and lower entered the first qualifying round with those from associations ranked 9–18 joining them in the second qualifying round. In addition, three places in the first qualifying round were reserved for the UEFA Fair Play ranking winners, and eleven places in the second qualifying round for the UEFA Intertoto Cup winners.
Winners of the qualifying rounds then joined teams from the associations ranked 1–13 in the first round proper. In addition, non-qualifiers in the third qualifying round of the Champions League also joined the competition at this point along with the current title-holders (unless they had qualified for the UEFA Champions League via their national league), for a total of 80 teams in the first round.
After the first knockout round, the 40 survivors entered a group phase, with the clubs being drawn into eight groups of five each. Unlike the Champions League group phase, the UEFA Cup group phase was played in a single round-robin format, with each club playing two home and two away games. The top three teams in each of the eight groups qualified for the main knockout round along with the eight third-placed teams in the Champions League group phase. From then on a series of two-legged knockout ties were played before a single-legged final, traditionally held on the Wednesday in May immediately preceding the Champions League final.
From the 2009–10 season, the competition has been rebranded as the UEFA Europa League in a bid to increase the competition's profile. As well as changing the competition's name, an extra 16 teams now qualify for the main stages of the competition, with the group stage now consisting of 12 groups of four teams (in a double round robin), with the top two placed teams in each group progressing. The competition then progresses in much the same way as the previous format, with 4 rounds of two-legged knockout rounds and a one-off final held at a neutral ground meeting UEFA's Category Four stadium criteria. The final is played in May, on the Wednesday ten days before the Champions League final.
Qualification has also changed significantly. Associations ranked 7–9 in the UEFA coefficients will send the Cup winner and three other teams to the UEFA Europa League qualification, all other nations send a Cup winner and two other teams, except Andorra and San Marino, who will send only a Cup winner and a runner-up, and Liechtenstein, who will send only a Cup winner. Since Gibraltar was accepted as a full UEFA member at the UEFA congress held in London on 24 May 2013, their Cup winner will also be sent from the 2014-15 season onwards. Usually, the other teams will be the next highest ranked clubs in each domestic league after those qualifying for the UEFA Champions League, however France and England will continue to use one spot for their League Cup winner. Additionally, three places in the first of four qualifying rounds are still reserved for Fair Play winners. For the inaugural 2009–10 season these places went to Rosenborg of Norway, Randers of Denmark and Motherwell of Scotland. With the scrapping of the Intertoto Cup there will no longer be spaces reserved in the qualifying rounds for teams qualifying through that route. Generally, the higher an association is ranked in the UEFA coefficients, the later its clubs start in the qualification, however every team except the title holder and the highest ranked team (usually the cup winner) from the top six associations has to play at least one qualification round.
Apart from the teams mentioned, an additional 15 teams from the Champions League qualification round three will enter in the fourth and last UEFA Europa League qualification round, formerly known as the first round, and the 10 non-qualifiers of the Champions League qualification round 4 will directly enter the UEFA Europa League group stage. The 12 winners and the 12 runners-up in the group stage will advance to the first knock out round, together with eight 3rd placed teams from the Champions League group stage. The losing finalist for the domestic cup competition will still be entitled to be entered for the UEFA Europa League should the domestic cup winners qualify for the UEFA Champions League.
|Teams entering in this round ||Teams advancing from previous round|
|First qualifying round
|Second qualifying round
|Third qualifying round
The Europa League have implemented the extra officials rule since September 2009. Under the rule, there will be a total of six officials: the main referee, two assistant referees, fourth official of the sideline, and two extra assistants (one alongside each goal).
Similar to the UEFA Champions League, the prize money received by the clubs is divided into fixed payments based on participation and results, and variable amounts that depend of the value of their TV market.
A group stage participation in the Europa League awards a base fee of €1.3 million. A victory in the group pays €200,000 and a draw €100,000. Also, each group winner earns €400,000 and each runner-up €200,000. Reaching the knock-out stage triggers additional bonuses: €200,000 for the round of 32, €350,000 for the round of 16, €450,000 for the quarter-finals and €1 million for the semi-finals. The losing finalists receive €2.5 million and the champions get €5 million.
- First qualifying round: €120,000
- Second qualifying round: €130,000
- Third qualifying round: €140,000
- Play-off round elimination: €150,000
- Base fee for group stage: €1,300,000
- Group match victory: €200,000
- Group match draw: €100,000
- Group winners: €400,000
- Group runners-up: €200,000
- Round of 32: €200,000
- Round of 16: €350,000
- Quarter-finals: €450,000
- Semi-finals: €1,000,000
- Losing finalist: €2,500,000
- Winners: €5,000,000
Adidas is a secondary sponsor and supplies the official match ball, as it does for all other UEFA competitions. Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer is also a secondary sponsor as the official Europa League video game.
Individual clubs may wear jerseys with advertising, even if such sponsors conflict with those of the Europa League. However, only one sponsorship is permitted per jersey (plus that of the manufacturer), and if clubs play a match in a country where the relevant sponsorship category is restricted (such as alcohol in the case of France), then they must remove that logo from their jerseys.
The competition attracts an extensive television audience, not just in Europe, but throughout the world.
Records and statistics
The UEFA Cup finals were played over two legs until 1997. The first final was played on 3 May 1972 in Wolverhampton and 17 May 1972 in London. The first leg between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur was won 2–1 by the away side. The second leg finished as a 1–1 draw, meaning that Tottenham Hotspur became the first UEFA Cup winners.
The one-match finals in pre-selected venues were introduced in 1998. A venue must meet or exceed UEFA Category three standards to host UEFA Cup finals. On two occasions, the final was played at a finalist's home ground: Feyenoord defeated Borussia Dortmund at De Kuip, Rotterdam in 2002, and Sporting CP lost to CSKA Moscow at their own José Alvalade Stadium, Lisbon in 2005.
The winner of the last UEFA Cup final (prior to the competition being rebranded as the UEFA Europa League) was Shakhtar Donetsk on 20 May 2009. The Ukrainian team beat Werder Bremen of Germany 2–1 at Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium, Istanbul, Turkey.
|Club||Winners||Runners-up||Years won||Years runners-up|
|Juventus||3||1||1977, 1990, 1993||1995|
|Internazionale||3||1||1991, 1994, 1998||1997|
|Liverpool||3||0||1973, 1976, 2001|
|Sevilla||3||0||2006, 2007, 2014|
|Borussia Mönchengladbach||2||2||1975, 1979||1973, 1980|
|Tottenham Hotspur||2||1||1972, 1984||1974|
|IFK Göteborg||2||0||1982, 1987|
|Real Madrid||2||0||1985, 1986|
|Atlético Madrid||2||0||2010, 2012|
|Zenit St. Petersburg||1||0||2008|
- The top two teams in each group advance to the round of 32, where they are joined by the eight third-place teams in the Champions League group phase.
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