The 2009–10 UEFA Europa League was the first season of the UEFA Europa League, Europe's secondary club football tournament organised by UEFA. The competition was previously known as the UEFA Cup, which had been in existence for 38 years.
A total of 192 teams from 53 UEFA associations participated in the 2009–10 UEFA Europa League. Associations are allocated places according to their 2008 UEFA country coefficient, which takes into account their performance in European competitions from 2003–04 to 2007–08.
Below is the qualification scheme for the 2009–10 UEFA Europa League:
Associations 1–6 each enter three teams
Associations 7–9 each enter four teams
Associations 10–51 each enter three teams, except Liechtenstein (it organises only a domestic cup competition and no domestic league competition)
Associations 52–53 plus Liechtenstein each enter one team
Since the winners of the 2008–09 UEFA Cup, Shakhtar Donetsk, qualified for the 2009–10 UEFA Champions League through domestic performance, the title holder spot reserved for them in the group stage was vacated. As this was the first edition of the Europa League, it was initially unknown whether UEFA would simply disregard the vacant title holder spot and rearrange entries so that one more team would qualify from the play-off round, or replace the title holders' group stage place with that of the top-ranked association's cup winner and move teams from lower rounds appropriately, as the regulations are unclear on this matter. The former set-up was confirmed by UEFA's official list of participants, published on 16 June 2009. 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 (Switzerland and Bulgaria) were promoted from the third qualifying round to the play-off round.
The domestic cup winners of associations 28 and 29 (Cyprus and Slovenia) were promoted from the second qualifying round to the third qualifying round.
The domestic cup winners of associations 52 and 53 (Andorra and San Marino) and the domestic league runners-up of associations 35 and 36 (Republic of Ireland and Macedonia) 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
14 domestic league runners-up from associations 37–51 (except Liechtenstein)
29 domestic league third-placed teams from associations 22–51 (except Liechtenstein)
A Europa League place is vacated when a team qualify for both the Champions League and the Europa League, or qualify 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" qualifier 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 finisher which do not qualify for the Europa League yet.
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 which finish lower in the league are moved up one place, with the final place taken by the highest-placed league finisher which do not qualify for the Europa League yet.
A place vacated by the League Cup winners is taken by the highest-placed league finisher which do not qualify for the Europa League yet.
A Fair Play place is taken by the highest-ranked team in the domestic Fair Play table which do not qualify for the Champions League or Europa League yet.
TH Title Holder: Shakhtar Donetsk qualified for the UEFA Champions League as the runner-up of the 2008–09 Ukrainian Premier League. After losing in the Champions League third qualifying round, they entered the UEFA Europa League at the play-off round.
Armenia (ARM): Ararat Yerevan, which finished second in the 2008 Armenian Premier League, did not obtain a UEFA license, so Gandzasar, which finished third, were moved up to the second qualifying round, while Mika, which finished fourth, took the first qualifying round spot.
In the qualifying phase and the play-off round, teams play against each other over two legs on a home-and-away basis.
The draw for the first and second qualifying rounds, conducted by UEFA President Michel Platini and UEFA General Secretary David Taylor, was held on 22 June 2009, and the draw for the third qualifying round, conducted by UEFA Competitions Director Giorgio Marchetti and Head of Club Competitions Michael Heselschwerdt, was held on 17 July 2009. For the draws, clubs were separated into seeded and unseeded teams based on their club coefficient. Because the draws for the second and third qualifying rounds took place before the previous round was completed, the teams were seeded assuming the seeded side in the previous round would be victorious.
The draw for the play-off round, conducted by UEFA General Secretary David Taylor and UEFA Competitions Director Giorgio Marchetti, was held on 7 August 2009. For the draw, clubs were separated into seeded and unseeded teams based on their club coefficient. The first legs were played on 20 August, and the second legs were played on 25 and 27 August 2009.
Note 1: The match was abandoned at 0–2 in the 88th minute after one Dinamo București fan entered the playing field and other fans invaded the running track around the pitch. The UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body awarded a default 0–3 defeat against Dinamo during an emergency meeting on 25 August. After advancing to the group stage, Dinamo were punished by having their first two home matches in the group stage played behind closed doors.
Location of teams of the 2009–10 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 draw for the group stage was held at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco on 28 August 2009. A total of 48 teams were drawn into twelve groups of four. Teams were divided into four pots, based on their club coefficient. Clubs from the same pot or the same association cannot be drawn into the same group.
In each group, teams played against each other home-and-away. The matchdays were 17 September, 1 October, 22 October, 5 November, 2–3 December, and 16–17 December 2009. The top two in each group advanced to the knockout phase. If two or more teams are equal on points on completion of the group matches, the following criteria are applied to determine the rankings:
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 away from home in the group matches played among the teams in question;
superior goal difference from all group matches played;
higher number of goals scored;
higher number of coefficient points accumulated by the club in question, as well as its association, over the previous five seasons.
During this stage of the tournament, matches featured five on-field officials – with two additional officials monitoring play around the penalty area as part of a FIFA-sanctioned experiment.
Key to colours in group tables
Group winners and runners-up advance to the round of 32
Note 2: On 29 October 2009, UEFA's Control and Disciplinary Body ruled that Dinamo Zagreb would have to play their next two home matches in the UEFA Europa League behind closed doors due to the actions of their supporters in their match at Timișoara. They also deducted three points from the Croatian club's points tally in Group A. The club appealed, but the appeal was not heard until after the first closed-doors game against Ajax. After the appeal was heard, UEFA replaced the three point deduction with a €75,000 fine, and a three-year suspended ban from European competition, while the two-match stadium ban remained unchanged.
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 18 December 2009, conducted by UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino and UEFA Director of Competitions Giorgio Marchetti. In the round of 32, the group winners and the four better third-placed teams from the Champions League group stage, which would play the second leg at home, were drawn against the group runners-up and the other four third-placed Champions League teams, with the restriction that teams from the same group or the same association cannot be drawn with each other. In the round of 16, there were no seedings, and teams from the same group or the same association may be drawn with each other.
The draw for the quarter-finals, semi-finals, and final (to determine the "home" team) was held on 19 March 2010, conducted by UEFA competitions director Giorgio Marchetti and the ambassador for the Hamburg final, Uwe Seeler. Same as the round of 16, there were no seedings, and teams from the same group or the same association may be drawn with each other.
The final of the 2009–10 UEFA Europa League was played at the HSH Nordbank Arena in Hamburg, Germany, on 12 May 2010. This was the second time the home stadium of Hamburger SV hosted a UEFA final, the first being the second leg of the 1982 UEFA Cup Final. Due to UEFA rules banning corporate sponsorship outside the confederation, the stadium was referred to by UEFA as "Hamburg Arena". The match was won by Atlético Madrid.