Uefa promises ‘no losers’ in new European club competition

Clubs from lower-ranked leagues, including most Irish sides, to be diverted to new league

FAI chief John Delaney at the Uefa Euro 2020 draw in the Convention Centre, Dublin on Sunday. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

FAI chief John Delaney at the Uefa Euro 2020 draw in the Convention Centre, Dublin on Sunday. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Uefa director of competitions Giorgio Marchetti claims that there will be “no losers, only winners” from the introduction of the third, as yet unnamed European club competition, in which most Irish sides will compete in future.

Under the proposals, which were approved in Dublin on Sunday by Uefa’s executive committee, of which the FAI’s John Delaney is a member, almost all of the clubs from the lower-ranked leagues will lose their place in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League and be diverted instead to the new competition.

National champions look set to be better off, with the opportunity to play more European games (something that would be likely to present scheduling challenges in Ireland) and, almost certainly, earn significantly more prize money, but the fate of those who qualify for Europe in the runners-up spots or by winning a cup is a little less attractive.

Group stage

Overall, there will be a greater chance of making it to a group stage of a European competition because the new competition will bring the total number of places available up from 80 to 96, and the number of countries represented will rise from at least 26 to 34, but repeating the achievement of Shamrock Rovers or Dundalk, both of whom made it to the Europa League group stage in recent years, will only be possible for winners of the league here, and it will be harder for them to do as there will be 16 fewer teams at that stage of that competition from 2021.

The main concept is that everyone must have the chance to play in each of the competitions

Those qualifying directly for the new competition, a list that will include seventh-placed sides from the strongest leagues and three teams annually from Scotland and Ireland as things stand, will have a better chance of making its group stages but will have to battle clubs parachuting in after being beaten in the other competitions.

Crucially, the payments that those who don’t make it will receive will not be revealed until next year, but Marchetti insists that “robust” guarantees have been provided to the European Club Association, of which Dundalk is a full voting member while St Patrick’s Athletic and Shamrock Rovers have associate membership.

‘Interesting’

“The main concept is that everyone must have the chance to play in each of the competitions,” said Marchetti in Dublin on Monday. “This competition is not reserved for the smaller ones [clubs/leagues]. All of the 55 are represented including the top five. You might ask the other question: Is it interesting for them, yes or no, but the point is that everyone plays there.

“The most chances are reserved for the domestic champions. They can try to qualify for the Champions League. If they fail early [the first qualifying round], they will go to UEL2 [the working title for the new competition]. If they fail in Q2 [the second round] they go first to the Europa League. If they fail again, they go to the other one. It’s a double safety net.”

Marchetti says that the money on offer to participating clubs will not be decided until the marketing of the new event is at a far more advanced stage, but says that “we will work to improve distribution and solidarity for all and not to give less”.

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