The final showdown of the European Conference Association awaits us. However, before we return to Tirana for good to analyze the chances of Roma and Feyenoord Rotterdam for the final victory, it is worth thinking for a moment about these new competitions in general. Did the creation of a third European Championship, much less popular than the other two, turn out to be a step in the right direction? At first, we were very skeptical about this UEFA move, and today we are looking at the Conference League more positively.
Let’s try to collect arguments to defend the championship.
chance for palace
From the outset, the primary assumption made by UEFA activists to the public was that the Conference League would be a gateway to the knockout adventure of clubs from leagues with a medium or low national coefficient. The message was clear – perhaps the Champions League will become more elite than before, perhaps the Europa League doors will be almost closed to the middle class and bream, but in the conference league, even the biggest shovel will be able to secure a place in the group stage with a little luck. And this, on the one hand, can, of course, be perceived negatively, because today UEFA organizes a luxurious ball for the elite, a luxurious cocktail for almost the elite, and dinner at a milk bar for the rest. But at the end of the day, it turns out that all the tomatoes and minced meat taste really good in this bar.
So we had clubs in the conference league group stage whose fans didn’t get used to playing cup matches until late fall. We mention, for example, Alaskirt Yerevan (Armenia), HJK (Finland), Flora Tallinn (Estonia), Kairat Almaty (Kazakhstan), NS Mura (Slovenia), and Lincoln Red Imps (Gibraltar). Of course, matches with these teams didn’t generate much excitement – to put it mildly – among neutral fans, they weren’t TV matches, but that wasn’t the goal of the Conference League either. For sure, the individual team fans had a lot of fun and had some lovely moments.
For example, consider the masters of Gibraltar. On September 30, 2021, in the second round of the Conference League group stage, the Lincoln Red Imps faced themselves against much stronger rivals FC Copenhagen, ultimately losing 1:3 at Barken Stadium. And watched the match from the stands 13,000 spectators.
Taron and Scanyan (Alaskert Yerevan) in conversation with the judge
Let’s also add that clubs from the slightly stronger leagues, which in recent years have not seen a string of international successes, have been scored in the group stage of the Conference League. Not widely known are the Danish Randers, as well as the Dutch Vitesse Arnhem, the Cypriot Omonia Nicosia or the Czech Jablonec. From this perspective, the position of the representatives of the Polish national team Ekstraklasa in the previous European Cup qualifiers should be viewed with greater rigor. At the time, we were pleased with Legia Warszawa’s position, and were satisfied with the results from Raków Częstochowa or Śląsk Wrocław, but it is now clear that in the current system, our league’s minimum plan should be to have two representatives in the group stage from the Continental Games.
Additional cash register
You can also get good money from UEFA for your appearance in the Conference League. Of course, it is incomparably smaller than in the Champions League, but we are still talking about bets that can significantly enhance the budget of a low or medium club.
- Champions League 2021/22
- Bonus for promotion to the group stage – 15.64 million euros
- For a draw in the group stage – 0.93 million euros
- To win in the group stage – 2.8 million euros
- European League 2021/22
- The bonus for participation in the group stage is 3.63 million euros
- For a draw in the group stage – 0.21 million euros
- To win in the group stage – 0.63 million euros
- Association of European Conferences 2021/22
- The bonus for participation in the group stage is 2.94 million euros
- For a draw in the group stage – 0.166 million euros
- To win in the group stage – 0.5 million euros
The Champions League is, without a doubt, a financial haven. However, compared to the European League, the number three tournament in the prestige hierarchy is not as pale as it might seem. Swiss blogger Ramble calculates that the maximum amount that can be won for playing LM is €85.1 million. pounds – 23.4. LKE – 15.5. God knows what the gap is between the European League and the Conference League, despite a much smaller slice of the LKE television rights pie.
Graphics source: Swiss Ramble
It would be better to analyze them all on the example of Bodo / Glimt, and thus the biggest discovery in the first edition of the Conference League. The Norwegian champions began their cup adventure with a defeat in the first round of qualifying for the Champions League, as their rival was Legia Warsaw. They then successfully made their way through the three stages of qualifying for LKE, breaking into the group stage of the tournament. Here they won three matches (6: 1 unforgettable with Roma!) and tied three, giving them second place on the field. In the first playoff stage, they dealt with Celtic Glasgow, in the 1/8 finals, they defeated Alkmaar, and finally in the quarter-finals, they were plunged into the sea by previously humiliated Roma, despite winning 2-1 in the first meeting.
Norwegian TV2 calculated that only Bodo/Glimt’s bonuses for subsequent promotions in the current version of the Cups contributed to the club’s funds at around €7.5 million. And let’s add to this, for example, the profits from the promotion of football players in the European arena, from paid marketing, for example, this wonderful victory over Roma …
Like I said, these are really good sums.
It should also be noted that for clubs from countries with intermediate or lower scores in the UEFA rankings, the Conference League is a good area for improving the national coefficient. Even Poland can be an example of poverty. In the end, the 2021/22 season was Ekstraklasa’s best in years when it came to ranking issues. In total, we managed to score 4.65 points, which is the greatest success for Premier League players since the 2015/16 season, when Legia Warszawa and Lech Pozna played in the group stage of the European League. However, as mentioned earlier, there is no reason to be overzealous. In the long run, in the 2021/22 season, Legia scored points for Ekstraklasa, and the rest of the company simply avoided settling in the LKE qualifying rounds. And in order to seriously fight the battle for a place in the TOP20 rankings of the UEFA coefficients, our players in the league will have to increase the pace significantly.
In the meantime, let’s take a look at the Netherlands. Certainly, Ajax (22 points), who raged in the Champions League group stage, performed superbly with the Eredivisie as usual in the European Cups that were about to end, but Feyenoord Rotterdam who reached the Conference League final (28.5 points) showed a draw. More power. In addition, there is the participant in the group stage LE and LKE quarter-finals – PSV (17.5 points) and the participants in the 1/8 LKE finals – AZ Alkmaar and Vitesse Arnhem (14 points each). Effect? Only the English scored better goals in the 2021/22 season than the Dutch. After the final recounts, the Eredivisie has 19.2 points in the national classification.
Well, Feyenoord hasn’t said the last word yet.
Feyenoord Rotterdam players celebrate promotion to the Conference League final
LASK Linz, who was knocked out in the Conference League in the 1/8 finals, has nearly as many points for the Austrian league (18.5) as Red Bull Salzburg, a participant in the 1/8 Champions League finals (19). On the other hand, Slavia Braga, who was pushed by Legia to the group stage in the English Premier League, by reaching the quarter-finals of the tournament, achieved a higher coefficient (15.5) than “Wogskii” (10). In turn, Flora Tallinn (9) scored better goals than Dynamo Kyiv than LM (5). We will not even return to Bodo’s example, which made the Norwegian League 14th among the top scorers in the 2021/22 season.
To be clear – we will not prove that playing in the Conference League is more profitable than in the Champions League, because the coefficient is of paramount importance. It just comes down to pressing the third level game in order like lemons. In this way, it simplifies the road to the Champions League.
Time to accept reality?
There is no need to scan reality of course. Over the years, we have spoiled the Champions League so much with the toughest teams on the Old Continent that it is hard to look at the group stage of the European Conference League in any way other than the Soft Pie Cup. The Israeli-Finnish, Estonian-Cypriot, Norwegian-Bulgarian or Czech-Romanian battles will not be a magnet for the slipper-clad Sunday fan. However, the knockout stage of the first version of LKE was not a terrible tragedy. Head coach Brendan Rodgers, after Leicester City’s departure from the Europa League, has frankly admitted he has no idea what competition his players will now face. In the end, however, Lisa fought hard for promotion to the Conference League Final, seeing it as an opportunity to salvage an overall bad season. And equally enthusiastic Roma stood their way in the semi-finals.
The revenge match with Leicester attracted more than 60,000 spectators to the stands of the Olympic Stadium in Rome. Pictures of Jose Mourinho, crying of happiness, spread all over the world. Much emotion was also generated by the second semi-final, where other big companies – Olympique Marseille and Feyenoord Rotterdam – clashed. – At the moment, the Champions League is not our level “The Special One,” he said humbly. – That’s why the Conference League is our Champions League.
Roma 1-0 Leicester City (European Conference League semi-finals 2021/22)
Perhaps Mourinho’s words should be taken as a hint. Of course, the way UEFA constructed the European Cup system in general promotes the wealthy, making them richer each season. However, the Conference Association, despite all its shortcomings, is also an opportunity. For teams like AS Roma, Leicester City or Olympique Marseille – to cover themselves with glory by winning on the European stage. For middle-class teams like Bodo / Glimt – to make serious profits and break into the mainstream. Finally, for the totally weak – to complete the World Cup adventure.
Let representatives of Polish Ekstraklasa take advantage of this opportunity as soon as possible.
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