• Pablo Lario

UCL + UEL? = "UEFA Europa Conference League" (Time To Make More Money, B******!!)

All I have to say is that one lucky team will have the opportunity to play in the REAL Europa League! Yeaaahhh! Exciting, isn't? (Let's stop this stupid sarcasm and let's dive, just like Neymar, into it)

UEFA Europa Conference League... What's that all about? Let me say it in one simple word (and no; it's not a swear word): MONEY!

Yes, that's right: MONEY! That's exactly what this "stupid" and "unnecessary" competition is for; to take all your money (in case you're a Manchester United or Arsenal fan). Let me actually explain what this "Champions League's bad imitation" is going to be.

Firstly, a new competition was mooted back in December 2018, but its name and format weren't revealed... Until now! The launch of the UEFA Europa Conference League was confirmed by European football’s governing body at an Executive Committee meeting Tuesday 24th September 2019. And oh, boy... This is completely what I was saying! A way to make more money to their filthy pockets! But...

Who cares! I love football, you love football (I guess you do), so we'll watch it anyway (But I'm not going to pay any penny for it. ILLEGALITY, HERE I COME!!). OK, now seriously; what are we getting? The tournament’s stated aim is to broaden the number of nations and clubs represented in Europe’s top-tier competitions. Only 29% of UEFA’s constituent teams are represented in the 2019/20 Champions League group stage, with 59.3% of those teams hailing from just 5 nations (Spain, Italy, France, Germany, and United Kingdom).

According to them: “Inclusive competition means more matches for more clubs and more associations,” says UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin. “There was a widespread demand by all clubs to increase their chances of participating more regularly in European competition.” They clearly are desperate to include Manchester United into Europe's elite games, right?

However, its critics allege that the Europa Conference League will actually help maintain elite nations’ stranglehold on Europe’s premier competition. Others have noted that the new three-tiered set-up might resemble the beginnings of a league structure similar to that of the long-rumoured European Super League. So, that does mean our beloved "but no one cares too much" Europa League is going elsewhere?

Don't worry, Arsenal and Sevilla fans; your favorite Europe competition is continuing for a long time (at least, until UEFA loses money with it). Although, the Europa League is being reduced to 32 teams, and even if the games are planned to be the exact same days and times as those in the Europa League. Not suspicious at all, UEFA.

The Europa Conference League is intended to sit below the Champions League and Europa League. Winners of the new tournament will automatically qualify for the Europa League, much like winners of the latter qualify for the Champions League at present. The working title of the competition was "Europa League 2" (Nice work, guys! Lot of work put into that name).

The qualification will be possible through the domestic league and cup performance. So, this pretty much means that everyone is invited to join this competition. Unlike the Champions League, qualification berths are weighted away from Europe’s elite nations. As it stands, as one of UEFA’s top-five-ranked nations by coefficient points, England would only have one available slot. That will likely be filled by a 7th-placed Premier League side, or the winners of the Carabao Cup, who would then have to win a play-off to qualify for the group stage. On the other side, non-champion sides from nations below 15th in UEFA’s rankings (such as Rangers or Basel) would no longer be eligible for the Europa League but go straight into the UEFA Europa Conference League.

Finally, the format will be mostly the same as the Champions League (I like the lack of originality in here). Eight groups of four teams, then a last 16, quarter-final, semi-final and final. The only difference is that there will also be a preliminary round before the last 16, between 3rd-placed Europa League group stage sides and their 2nd-placed Europa Conference League equivalents. The 32-team format has been decided on from 2021 to 2024, but there are already suggestions the tournament might expand to 64 teams. SIXTY-FOUR TEAMS!!?? BLOOD OF JESUS!!

In any case, Europe’s new third-tier competition will get underway in 2021, and I cannot wait to see the more exciting clashes: Millwall v Granada, Kalmar FF v Leicester, or Ordabasy v Bologna. And don't forget the great final: Manchester United v FK Žalgiris. This is going to be epic!

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