There is an ongoing debate as to how necessary an extra mid season European competition really is. English Premier League teams play too many games as it stands and while an additional European game every Thursday for the seventh place team will probably help their global recognition and go a long way financially, is it really necessary? And most importantly what is this new competition?
The sole purpose of the UEFA Europa Conference League is to get more UEFA associations involved in European competitions. The addition of the UECL, would ensure that at least 34 UEFA associations will be involved in one or more of the UEFA competitions. A total of 184 teams will be involved in the entire season of the UECL including teams transferring from the Europa League.
The UECL will have three qualifying stages and a play off stage. Each stage will be a two legged affair where the winner gets to move on to the next stage. The qualifiers from the Scottish League join the completion at the second qualifiers stage and the seventh placed team in the EPL joins in the play offs stage. That means 12 games will be played before the start of the group stages of the competition.
The group stage like the Champions League and Europa League will involve thirty-two teams split into eight different groups of four. The winner of each group gets an automatic qualification to the round of 16 while the runner up in each group will play out a two legged play off with the third placed team from the Europa. The winner after two legs moves on to the knock out stages of the UECL.
The knock out stage like other European competitions will be a two legged, home and away format with the winner on aggregate progressing to the next round until the final.
There is no doubt that a new European competition comes with some excitement. It signifies an opportunity for players and “smaller teams” to showcase their talent on an international stage. It gives the fans of these teams a taste of European football and can act as incentive for owners to go the extra mile and improve their teams so as to remain competitive. However, it is also important to note that if a Premier League team was to reach the final of the UECL they would have to play fifteen extra games (seventeen if they finished 2nd in their group). That is too many games. So while for some this can be seen as an opportunity, to others, it is a liability. Teams will field their third teams for this competition in the name of squad rotation and that will in turn affect the quality of football that will be produced. All being said, come May 25, 2022 in Tirana, Albania a team captain will make history when he hoists the UEFA Europa Conference League trophy over his head and those are the moments we live for in football and in sports.