Since the rise of the Champions League, many of the “bigger” clubs in Europe have often treated the Europa League as more of a distraction or nuisance than a prestigious competition that should be prioritized over others. They see the Thursday kickoffs as a hindrance towards their real goal of making sure to qualify for the Champions League the following season.
To help combat this mentality, UEFA is set to offer greater financial rewards to teams participating in the Europa League in order to boost interest in it from the clubs involved. An expected increase of 20 percent in prize money form 2015 on will make the trophy worth all the much more even for a “big” club especially in the wake of Financial Fair Play.
UEFA Events marketing director Guy-Laurent Epstein said about the increase that “by introducing this reward there is a feeling that teams will take it more seriously”. He was also realistic in saying that he knows the Europa League will never reach the level of popularity of the Champions League but maintains that many clubs will find it worth fighting for.
Guy-Laurent Epstein on the Europe League and the increase of prize money:
“We have to be pragmatic — Europa League is not Champions League.It’s for teams that are more community (based) rather than international brands most of the time.
I think it will pass the 300 million (euros) ($400 million) bar in the next cycle,” said the marketing chief, though no sponsor deals have yet been sealed.”
The popularity of the Europa League was improved in England after Chelsea captured the title in 2013 but the fan reaction towards it is usually negative according to Epstein. Clubs and their fans that think they should be competing in the Champions League will never be satisfied with the Europa League but smaller clubs with no realistic top four aspirations will see the financial rewards as crucial. The competition may put a strain on their domestic campaigns but if they are rewarded with enough cash, that is likely to all balance out in the end.
Follow us on Twitter at @PrideOLondon
Like us on Facebook at The Pride of London