However, the excitement for the beginning of each could not have been of greater contrast.
While the Champions League continues to be the pinnacle of European football, the interest in it’s sister format appears to dwindle with each passing season.
The main reason for this appears to be the difference in financial rewards from participating in each competition.
Take Tottenham for example; Last season, they gained £28 million from reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League. This year they participate in the Europa League, and they would only pick up a quarter of that total even if they go on to win the Europa League.
Clubs aren’t going to have the same drive and desire to do well in the competition if they get very little in return.
Another issue is the huge burden the Europa League brings onto a club’s fixture schedule.
Last season’s Champions League winners Barcelona played 13 games to lift the trophy. Europa League winners Porto competed in 19 matches for their European silverware.
There are too many clubs allowed to qualify (48 from the group stage onwards) with a focus on quantity rather than quality, and include many club minnows that have no chance of making an impact on the tournament.
This means that television companies and potential sponsors would rather pay the big money for Champions League rights instead of acquiring Europa League rights as there is a significantly greater chance of getting big games.
But this is the fulcrum of the problem; UEFA aren’t going to worry too much when the formula of the Champions League provides them an unlimited moneypit.
The format of their most prized possession will not change merely to improve the second tier of European competitors. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
But the Europa League needs fixing, and they need to find a way to attract a greater stream of revenue as well as making it more appealing to those that qualify.
One possibility is to dangle the carrot of the Champions League over the tournament as a reward for the winners.
Suddenly you’ll find the likes of Spurs, Sevilla, Atletico Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen going all out to win the Europa instead of potentially viewing it as an unwanted distraction.
A second solution is to restrict the number of teams to compete to 32 from the group stages. This would create a greater number of high-quality games and increase the interest from sponsor and television networks.
However, these decisions aren’t up to myself or other football fans that feel the same way.
It’s up to UEFA to find common sense in improving the commercial appeal of the Europa League, and providing supporters two European competitions to get excited about.
What do you think? What needs to be done to improve the Europa League? Leave us a comment and let us know your views
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