This has been a troubled competition since European football’s governing body decided to change the format of the tournament.
Instead of a straight two leg knockout round up until the final they decided to introduce a group stage, much like the Champions League.
It has created a competition that doesn’t really have an identity, yes there have been good moments over the past few years, but you can’t deny it’s a competition that teams want to be in.
Last year’s winners, Chelsea, would not have wanted to be in it at the beginning of the season as they had plans to defend their Champions League crown.
The particular problem with the Europa League is that the qualifying stage last night included teams that weren’t really up to the standard of European football. Tottenham had an easy 5-0 away win against Tbilisi and Swansea thrashed Romanian cup winners Petrolul Ploiesti.
I’m not going to try and deny these teams shouldn’t be in Europe but it would make sense to have the return of the Cup Winners Cup (CWC), a competition solely for the purpose of pitting each countries cup winners.
This can run along side the Europa League and Champions League; it will no doubt be a success as the CWC showed up until its demise in 1999.
Another change to the Europa League is reverting back to the knockout system it used before being rebranded in to a ‘Champions League light.’ It would mean that every game would be important rather than having meaningless, dull group games. Teams would have to be switched on every time they stepped on to the pitch.
This is just some of the changes that could be made to European competitions that, I think, would improve them immeasurably. Something that Uefa should have considered when they decided to redesign the competitions back in 2009.
image: © marcfonteijn