What would it actually mean for the club? Is it worth the extra games given the well documented detrimental effect it can have on a season? Is it financially viable given that you need a bigger squad with more quality throughout the avoid the previous scenario?
Well here I’m going to try and investigate what the competition actually involves in it’s current Europa League format. Of course we remember it as the UEFA Cup the last time we were in it, and it’s fair to say that there have been a fair few changes since we last competed in the competition.
How to enter
I wasn’t going to do this, but given that a lot of people are wondering just what league position is required to capture a European place and the various permutations regarding qualification I thought I’d cover it. There are a number of ways that we could sneak into the Europa League.
– By finishing in 5th place in the Premier League.
– By finishing 6th in the Premier League, providing Liverpool finish 5th – I’m led to believe that they have already qualified for Europe regardless of the League Cup result. Cast your minds back to the FA Cup final between Portsmouth and Cardiff. It was decided that because Cardiff come under Welsh FA jurisdiction they wouldn’t be allowed to take a place representing the English FA in Europe and would need to apply for a “wildcard” entry instead. The rules haven’t changed since.
– By finishing 7th in the league providing Liverpool finish 5th or 6th and the FA Cup final is competed between two teams from what ends up being the top four in the Premier League.
– Via the Fair Play league, assuming the English league finishes as one of the top three ranked Fair Play leagues in Europe, whatever that means and however it is done.
So there are the the permutations of what it takes to qualify for the competition, but what do we actually gain out of it? I mean it is fun for us fans to visit different parts of Europe, but what does it mean for the club?
While not being as lucrative as the Champions League, the Europa League does still have financial benefits. In terms of prize money you’re guaranteed £500,000 for reaching the group stage of the competition plus more providing you progress. You get £100,000 for a group stage win and £50,000 for a draw. If you get to the final and win you would be looking at picking up £25m for you troubles. Get to the final and lose and you’ll pick up significantly less – somewhere in the region of £13m in prize money.
Each team also receives a “market share” of broadcasting money based on how lucrative the TV rights of a particular country are. The Premier League TV deal is pretty lucrative compared to the rest of Europe so an English club would get somewhere in the region £8m.
Then there are the associated gains to consider. Obviously there are two guaranteed home games in the group stage so you would get gate money, merchandising and all the other trimmings you associate with a home game, although you then have all the associated costs such as policing and stewarding to consider also. Progress further and it’s more of the same. The further you go the more you get. Simples!
There are other financial benefits to be had that have a less immediate effect. Obviously the Europa League gives us as a club more exposure to potential new sponsors who might like what they see and decide to set up some form of link. Regular competition would also give us a bit more leverage when talking to current sponsors.
Not only that, but it opens us up to a new level of player who will be swayed by wanting to join a team involved in European competition and will also go some way to tempering any thoughts of our players leaving. If we’re in Europe the urge to leave may subside for some.
To compete in more competitions you need a bigger squad with more quality available. There are many examples of teams who have suffered a dip in league form thanks to participation in the Europa League. Think Stoke or Fulham for example. Generally speaking, teams in the Champions League have the depth in the squad to fight at the top of their league whereas those in the Europa tend to be a bit lower down the chain.
A deeper squad costs money and unless you get far in the competition you won’t have the means to pay for it. It’s odd to see a team really strengthen based on Europa League qualification although it shouldn’t step in the way of the general strengthening process.
The you have to look at it from the perspective of trying to win it, which is difficult when you have teams dropping out of the Champions League and straight into the knockout part of the Europa League which makes it hard to progress.
Obviously as I said right at the start, this is all theoretical although given that we are 5th in the league with 14 games to go you have to start at least half thinking about it.Is it worth it though? It may be viewed as a second rate European competition, but I think it is, from many perspectives.
What do you think though?