So as you may have heard yesterday was the launch of the UEFA Europa Conference League. The new competition was announced at the executive meeting of the governing body of European football. The launch of the new competition is no surprise as it was hinted at in December of last year.

Since its announcement in Ljubljana there have been mixed reviews, but how will the new third European competition work? And more importantly, how could this affect the Football Index?

So as you may have heard yesterday was the launch of the UEFA Europa Conference League. The new competition was announced at the executive meeting of the governing body of European football. The launch of the new competition is no surprise as it was hinted at in December of last year.

Since its announcement in Ljubljana there have been mixed reviews, but how will the new third European competition work? And more importantly, how could this affect the Football Index?

What is the need for a third European competition?

The simple answer to this is that it gives more nations and teams the opportunity to feature on the European top competitions. UEFA released statistics in their announcement outlining how the Champions League group stage presents the opportunity for only 29% of their constituent members to feature. If you break this figure down further, 59.3% of these teams are from the big 5 footballing nations.

Aleksander Ceferin the current UEFA president talked about the demand from all clubs, for an increase in the possibility to participate in European competitions highlighting the focus of inclusion.

However, critics have been quick to respond with some claiming that the new Europa Conference League format helping the elite maintain their domination over the European competitions. In addition to this, other critics have highlighted concerns that a three-tiered European competition seems to resemble the start of the European Super League which has been rumoured for several years.

Will it have any effect on the Champions League or Europa League?

The Champions League will be totally unaffected by the new Europa Conference League. The Europa League will have some changes but nothing major.

Firstly, the Europa League will be reduced to 32 teams. The new tournament will then be situated behind the Europa League as the third tear of European football. This means that the winners of the new tournament will get an automatic qualification place for the Europa League, just as the Europa League winners automatically qualify for the Champions League the following season.

Secondly, the third-placed team in Europa League group stages will drop into the new Europa Conference League, again similar to the current format of Champions League third-place teams joining the Europa League.

Who qualifies for the European Conference League?

There’s a couple of different ways to qualify for the new European competition from winning domestic cups to ‘high’ league positions.

The qualification berths will be weighted away from Europe’s elite nations unlike how the Champions League currently works. Currently, England will only have one available spot due to them being one of the top five ranked nations in UEFA’s coefficient points system.

This place will be filled by the winner of the Carabao Cup, or the 7th placed Premier League side if that team has already qualified for any European competition. The team who qualify will then have to win a play-off against a team from another European nation to qualify for the group stage.

For other leagues, this new competition may cause a bit more of a stir. For example, nations that are ranked 16th or lower in the UEFA rankings would no longer be eligible for a Europa League play-off place but will go straight into the Europa Conference League.

To put this in context, Rangers and Basel would not have had the chance to qualify for the Europa League this year but be placed straight in the group stages of the new competition.

When is the competition starting?

The launch yesterday announced that the competition would start during the 2021/22 season. This means that the team that wins next years Carabao Cup (or the team that finishes 7th if they’ve already qualified) will enter the play-off.

What day and what time will games be played?

The European Conference League will join the Europa League on a Thursday night with two fixed fixture kick-off times of 5:45pm and 8pm. This means that they will directly clash with Europa League fixtures.

What’s the tournament format?

The format is almost identical to the Champions League of eight groups of four-team, followed by a last 16 round, quarter-final, semi-final and final. The one difference is that there will be an extra round between the group stages and the last 16 knockout round. This will include the group stage second-place Europa Conference League teams playing the group stage third-place Europa League teams.

This format has been decided fo the first three seasons of the competition. However, there has already been hints and suggestions that the tournaments may be expanded to 64 teams after this period.

So how could this affect the Football Index?

There are a couple of different ways that the European Conference League could affect the Football Index. The big question is whether it will join the Champions League and the Europa League as competitions eligible for Performance Buzz (PB) dividends and In-Play Dividends (IPD).

If it does then Europa league match days will be a lot more competitive and it would not be surprising to see money go into players from teams in non-PB leagues that are playing in the new European competition, especially with them likely to be playing weaker opposition.

To use this season as an example, you could have seen a spike in players from Rangers at the end of last season as they would automatically qualify for this competition rather than enter play-offs for the Europa League. This spike would have been due to the opportunity for the Rangers players to immediately be eligible for dividends on Thursday nights this season. In addition, you would expect them to be playing weaker sides meaning that higher PB scores and an increased likelihood of goals, assists and clean sheets for IPD’s.

This could see more money filter through Football Index with an increased value for players in non-PB leagues. However, saying this there is a high likelihood with only the ‘top’ 3000 or so players currently existing on FI that the competition may cause too much disruption if included as an eligible league. Learn more about Football Index.

The need to add a large number of players from all the different qualifying teams from smaller UEFA nations, as well as no guarantee of the competition being of decent quality it may be seen as too big an obstacle.

Let us know what you think!

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