UEFA has confirmed that the winner of the Europa League will be granted access to the Champions League from 2015 as part of efforts to increase the attractiveness of the competition for both clubs and commercial rights holders.
UEFA said the Europa League winners will be granted access to the play-offs of the subsequent Champions League season. The Europa League winners could even gain direct access to the group stage, should the Champions League title-holders also qualify via their domestic league, therefore freeing up a place in the latter competition’s group stage. As an effect of the Europa League winners qualifying for the Champions League, the current limit of a maximum four teams per association will be increased to five. Further changes have been made to the access list, whereby, in principle, all associations will now have a maximum three teams entering the Europa League. In addition, the number of teams directly qualified for the group stage will be increased to 16 from the top 12 associations, compared to the current six teams from the top six associations. UEFA’s Executive Committee also approved the full centralisation of commercial rights from the group stage onwards, as opposed to the current full centralisation from the knock-out stage onwards. The changes will take effect from the 2015-18 cycle of UEFA’s competitions.
“As was proven with this year’s magnificent final, the UEFA Europa League has gone from strength to strength, but we wanted to give clubs a further incentive, so that all of them play with a desire to win the competition,” said UEFA president Michel Platini. “By guaranteeing access to the UEFA Champions League for the winners, we are convinced that the UEFA Europa League will increase its appeal for clubs and their supporters.”
The announcement comes after Europe’s leading clubs in February signalled their support for the current format of UEFA’s top competitions in light of ongoing speculation over the future of the Europa League. Platini made the headlines in November when he said expanding the Champions League to 64 teams and axing the Europa League was an option. The Europa League is a reincarnation of the UEFA Cup, which was rebranded and restructured ahead of the 2009-10 campaign, but has continually suffered by being painted as the poor relation to the Champions League, while a huge financial chasm exists between the two competitions. Atletico de Madrid earned Eur10.52 million from its victory in the 2011-12 Europa League final, almost six times less than Chelsea secured for its Champions League triumph in the same season.