The UEFA Cup was preceded by the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, which was a European football competition played between 1955 and 1971. The competition grew from 11 teams during the first cup (1955–58) to 64 teams by the last cup which was played in 1970–71. It had become so important on the European football scene that in the end it was taken over by UEFA and relaunched the following season as the UEFA Cup.
The UEFA Cup was first played in the 1971–72 season, with an all-English final of Wolverhampton Wanderers versus Tottenham Hotspur, with Spurs taking the first honours. The title was retained by another English club, Liverpool in 1973, beating Borussia Mönchengladbach in the final. Borussia would win the competition in 1975 and 1979, and reach the final again in 1980. Liverpool won the competition for the second time in 1976, beating Club Brugge in the final.
During the 1980s, IFK Göteborg (1982 and 1987) and Real Madrid (1985 and 1986) won the competition twice each, with Anderlecht reaching two consecutive finals, winning in 1983 and losing to Tottenham Hotspur in 1984. 1989 saw the commencement of the Italian clubs' domination, when Maradona's Napoli beat Stuttgart. The 1990s started with two all-Italian finals, and in 1992, Torino lost the final to Ajax on the away goals rule. Juventus won the competition for a third time in 1993 and Internazionale kept the cup in Italy the following year. 1995 saw a third all-Italian final, with Parma proving their consistency, after two consecutive Cup Winners' Cup finals. The only final with no Italians during that decade was in 1996. Internazionale reached the final the following two years, losing in 1997 to Schalke on penalties, and winning yet another all-Italian final in 1998, taking home the cup for the third time in only eight years. Parma won the cup in 1999, which ended the Italian club era.
Liverpool won the competition for the third time in 2001 and Porto triumphed in the 2003 and 2011 tournaments, with the latter against Portuguese team Braga. In 2004, the cup returned to Spain with Valencia being victorious, and then Sevilla succeeded on two consecutive occasions in 2006 and 2007, the latter in a final against fellow Spaniards Espanyol. Either side of Sevilla's success, two Russian teams, CSKA Moscow in 2005 and Zenit Saint Petersburg in 2008, had their glory and yet another former Soviet club, Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk, won in 2009. Atlético Madrid would themselves win twice in three seasons, in 2010 and 2012, the latter in another all-Spanish final. In 2013, Chelsea would become the first Champions League holders to win the UEFA Cup/Europa League the following year. In 2014 Sevilla won their third cup in eight years after beating Benfica on penalties. Just a year later, in 2015, Sevilla won their fourth UEFA Cup/Europa League, becoming the most successful club in the competition.
The competition was traditionally open to the runners-up of domestic leagues, but the competition was merged with UEFA's previous second-tier European competition, the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, in 1999. Since then, the winners of domestic cup competitions have also entered the UEFA Cup. Also, clubs eliminated in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League and the third placed teams at the end of the group phase could go on to compete in the UEFA Cup. Winners of some selected domestic League Cup competitions are also admitted.
Four teams have won the UEFA Cup as well as their domestic league and cup competitions in the same season, those being IFK Göteborg in 1982, Galatasaray in 2000, FC Porto in 2003, and CSKA Moscow in 2005. This accomplishment is known as a treble that only Galatasaray completed with the European Super Cup. Additionally, Tottenham Hotspur, Borussia Mönchengladbach, IFK Göteborg (twice), AFC Ajax, Galatasaray, and Feyenoord are the only teams to have won the cup without suffering a single loss in their campaign. RCD Espanyol is the single runner-up without a defeat. IFK Göteborg played 25 consecutive matches in the UEFA Cup between 1980 and 1987 without a single loss, including their 1981–82 and 1986–87 winning campaigns.
Since the 2009–10 season, the competition has been known as the UEFA Europa League. At the same time, the UEFA Intertoto Cup, UEFA's third-tier competition, was discontinued and merged into the new Europa League.
The UEFA Cup, also known as the Coupe UEFA, is the trophy awarded annually by UEFA to the football club that wins the UEFA Europa League. Before the 2009–10 season, both the competition and the trophy were known as 'the UEFA Cup'.
Before the competition was renamed the UEFA Europa League in the 2009–10 season, the UEFA regulations stated that a club could keep the original trophy for a year before returning it to UEFA. After its return, the club could keep a four-fifths scale replica of the original trophy. Upon their third consecutive win or fifth win overall, a club could retain the trophy permanently. However, under the new regulations, the trophy remains in UEFA's keeping at all times. A full-size replica trophy is awarded to each winner of the competition. Also a club that wins three consecutive times or five times overall will receive a multiple-winner badge. As of 2016–17, only Sevilla have earned the right to wear the multiple-winner badge, having achieved both prerequired feats in 2016.
The trophy was designed and crafted by Bertoni for the 1972 UEFA Cup Final. It weighs 15 kg and is silver on a yellow marble plinth.
The competition's first anthem was composed by Yohann Zveig and recorded by the Paris Opera in early 2009. The theme for the re-branded UEFA Cup competition was first officially unveiled at the Grimaldi Forum on 28 August 2009 before the 2009–10 season group stage draw. The anthem is to be played before every Europa League game at a stadium hosting such an event and also before every television broadcast of a Europa League game as a musical element of the competition's opening sequence.
A new anthem was composed by Michael Kadelbach and recorded in Berlin and was launched as part of the competition's rebranding at the start of the 2015–16 season.
Qualification for the competition is based on UEFA coefficients, with better entrance rounds being offered to the more successful nations. In practice, each association has a standard number of three berths, excluding:Nations ranked 52 and 53 (Andorra and San Marino in the 2013–14 season), which have two berths
The nation ranked 54 (Gibraltar in the 2014–15 season) which has one berth.
Liechtenstein, which qualifies only the Cup Winners
Usually, places are awarded to teams who finish in various runners-up places in the top-flight leagues of Europe and the winners of the main cup competitions. A few countries have secondary cup competitions but the only countries which currently grant a UEFA Europa League place to their secondary cup winners are England and France.
A team may qualify for European competitions through more than one route. In all cases, if a club is eligible to enter the UEFA Champions League then the Champions League place takes precedence and the club does not enter the UEFA Europa League. The UEFA Europa League place is then granted to another club. If a team qualifies for European competition through both winning a cup and league placing, the "spare" UEFA Europa League place will go to the highest placed league team which has not already qualified for European competition, depending on the rules of the national association.
The top three ranked associations may qualify for the fourth berth if both the Champions League and Europa League champions are from that association and do not qualify for European competition through their domestic performance. In that case, the fourth placed team in that association will join the Europa League instead of the Champions League, in addition to their other qualifying teams.
More recently, clubs that are knocked out of the qualifying round and the group stage of the Champions League can also join the UEFA Europa League, at different stages (see below).
UEFA coefficients were introduced in 1980 and, until 1999, they gave a greater number of berths in UEFA Cup to the more successful nations. Three nations had four places, five nations had three places, thirteen nations had two places, and eleven nations only one place. Since 1999, a similar system has been used for the UEFA Champions League. Before 1980, the entrance criteria of the last Fairs Cup was used.
The competition was traditionally a pure knockout tournament. All ties were two-legged, including the final. Starting with the 1997–98 season, the final became a one-off match, but all other ties remained two-legged.
Before the 2004–05 season, the tournament consisted of one qualifying round, followed by a series of knockout rounds. The sixteen non-qualifiers from the final qualifying round of the Champions League entered at the first round proper; later in the tournament, the survivors were joined by third-place finishers from the (first) group phase of the Champions League.
From the 2004–05 season, the competition started with two knockout qualifying rounds held in July and August. Participants from associations ranked 18 and lower entered the first qualifying round with those from associations ranked 9–18 joining them in the second qualifying round. In addition, three places in the first qualifying round were reserved for the UEFA Fair Play ranking winners (until 2015/16), and eleven places in the second qualifying round for the UEFA Intertoto Cup winners.
Winners of the qualifying rounds then joined teams from the associations ranked 1–13 in the first round proper. In addition, non-qualifiers in the third qualifying round of the Champions League also joined the competition at this point along with the current title-holders (unless they had qualified for the UEFA Champions League via their national league), for a total of 80 teams in the first round.
After the first knockout round, the 40 survivors entered a group phase, with the clubs being drawn into eight groups of five each. Unlike the Champions League group phase, the UEFA Cup group phase was played in a single round-robin format, with each club playing two home and two away games. The top three teams in each of the eight groups qualified for the main knockout round along with the eight third-placed teams in the Champions League group phase. From then on a series of two-legged knockout ties were played before a single-legged final, traditionally held on the Wednesday in May immediately preceding the Champions League final.
From the 2009–10 season, the competition has been rebranded as the UEFA Europa League in a bid to increase the competition's profile. As well as changing the competition's name, an extra 8 teams now qualify for the main stages of the competition, with the group stage consisting of 12 groups of four teams (in a double round robin), with the top two placed teams in each group progressing. The competition then progresses in much the same way as the previous format, with 4 rounds of two-legged knockout rounds and a one-off final held at a neutral ground meeting UEFA's Category Four stadium criteria. The final is played in May, on the Wednesday ten days before the Champions League final.
Qualification has changed significantly. Associations ranked 7–9 in the UEFA coefficients sent the Cup winner and three (two since 2015–16 season) other teams to the UEFA Europa League qualification, all other nations sent a Cup winner and two other teams, except Andorra and San Marino, who sent only a Cup winner and a runner-up, and Liechtenstein, who sent only a Cup winner. Since Gibraltar was accepted as a full UEFA member at the UEFA congress held in London on 24 May 2013, their Cup winner is also sent. Usually, the other teams will be the next highest ranked clubs in each domestic league after those qualifying for the UEFA Champions League, however France and England will continue to use one spot for their League Cup winner. With the scrapping of the Intertoto Cup there will no longer be spaces reserved in the qualifying rounds for teams qualifying through that route. Generally, the higher an association is ranked in the UEFA coefficients, the later its clubs start in the qualification, however, every team except for the title-holder (up to 2014–15 season) and the highest ranked teams (usually the cup winner and/or the best UEFA Europa League qualified team) from the top (six in 2012–15 seasons, 12 since 2015–16 season) associations had to play at least one qualification round.
Apart from the teams mentioned, an additional 15 teams from the third Champions League qualification round entered in the fourth and last UEFA Europa League qualification round, formerly known as the first round, and the 10 non-qualifiers of the Champions League qualification pay-off round directly entered the UEFA Europa League group stage. The 12 winners and the 12 runners-up in the group stage advanced to the first knock out round, together with eight 3rd placed teams from the Champions League group stage. The losing finalist for the domestic cup competition was entitled to be entered for the UEFA Europa League should the domestic cup winners qualify for the UEFA Champions League.
From 2015–16, the distribution was changed to broaden the appeal of the competition, namely through giving the Europa League champions a Champions League qualification berth, an expansion in teams qualifying for the group stage and mandating that places go to league teams if cup winners qualify for European competition.
The access list above is provisional, as changes will need to be made in the following cases:If the Champions League title holders or the Europa League title holders have qualified for the Europa League through domestic performance, their berth in the Europa League is vacated (not replaced by another team from the same association), and cup winners of the highest-ranked associations are moved to a later round accordingly.
In some cases where changes to the access list of the Champions League are made, the number of losers of the Champions League third qualifying round which are transferred to the Europa League is increased or decreased from the default number of 15, which means changes to the access list of the Europa League will also need to be made.
Because a maximum of five teams from one association can enter the UEFA Champions League, if both the Champions League title holders and the Europa League title holders are from the same top three ranked association and finish outside the top four of their domestic league, the fourth-placed team of their association will be moved to the Europa League and enter the group stage, which means changes to the access list of the Europa League may also need to be made.
A Europa League place is vacated when a team qualifies for both the Champions League and the Europa League, or qualifies for the Europa League by more than one method. When a place is vacated, it is redistributed within the national association by the following rules (regulations Articles 3.03 and 3.04):When the domestic cup winners (considered as the "highest-placed" qualifier within the national association with the latest starting round) also qualify for the Champions League, their Europa League place is vacated. As a result, the highest-placed team in the league which have not yet qualified for European competitions qualify for the Europa League, with the Europa League qualifiers which finish above them in the league moved up one "place" (the 2015–16 season will be the first with this particular arrangement where the domestic cup runners-up are no longer guaranteed a place in the Europa League in this scenario).
When the domestic cup winners also qualify for the Europa League through league position, their place through the league position is vacated. As a result, the highest-placed team in the league which have not yet qualified for European competitions qualify for the Europa League, with the Europa League qualifiers which finish above them in the league moved up one "place" if possible.
For associations where a Europa League place is reserved for the League Cup winners, they always qualify for the Europa League as the "lowest-placed" qualifier. If the League Cup winners have already qualified for European competitions through other methods, this reserved Europa League place is taken by the highest-placed team in the league which have not yet qualified for European competitions.
Beginning with the 2018–19 tournament, all domestic champions eliminated in the qualifying rounds of the UEFA Champions League will transfer to the Europa League, rather than just teams that are eliminated in the third-qualifying and play-off rounds. Europa League qualifying will also provide a separate champions route for these teams, allowing more opportunities for domestic league champions to compete against each other.
The Europa League have implemented the extra officials rule since September 2009. Under the rule, there will be a total of six officials: the main referee, two assistant referees, fourth official of the sideline, and two extra assistants (one alongside each goal).
Similar to the UEFA Champions League, the prize money received by the clubs is divided into fixed payments based on participation and results, and variable amounts that depend of the value of their TV market.
For the 2016/2017 season, group stage participation in the Europa League awarded a base fee of €2.6 million. A victory in the group pays €360,000 and a draw €120,000. Also, each group winner earns €600,000 and each runner-up €300,000. Reaching the knock-out stage triggers additional bonuses: €500,000 for the round of 32, €750,000 for the round of 16, €1 million for the quarter-finals and €1.6 million for the semi-finals. The losing finalists receive €3.5 million and the champions get €6.5 million.First qualifying round: €215,000
Second qualifying round: €225,000
Third qualifying round: €235,000
Play-off round elimination: €245,000
Base fee for group stage: €2,600,000
Group match victory: €360,000
Group match draw: €120,000
Group winners: €600,000
Group runners-up: €300,000
Round of 32: €500,000
Round of 16: €750,000
Losing finalist: €3,500,000
The UEFA Europa League is sponsored by five multinational corporations; the current tournament sponsors are:Enterprise Rent-A-Car
FedEx (who is the main sponsor)
Heineken International (Amstel being the main brand, with local brands being also advertised)
Adidas is a secondary sponsor and supplies the official match ball, as it does for all other UEFA competitions. Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer is also a secondary sponsor as the official Europa League video game.
Since the inception of Europa League brand, the tournament use its own hoardings (in that year it debuted in the round of 32) like UEFA Champions League. LED hoardings made their debut since 2012–13 in the finals and will appear in 2015–16 season from the round of 16; in the same season, from the group stage, teams aren't allowed to show their sponsors.
Individual clubs may wear jerseys with advertising, even if such sponsors conflict with those of the Europa League. However, only one sponsorship is permitted per jersey unless it is a non profit sponsor (plus that of the manufacturer), and if clubs play a match in a country where the relevant sponsorship category is restricted (such as alcohol in the case of France), then they must remove that logo from their jerseys.
The UEFA Cup finals were played over two legs until 1997. The first final was played on 3 May 1972 in Wolverhampton and 17 May 1972 in London. The first leg between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur was won 2–1 by the away side. The second leg finished as a 1–1 draw, meaning that Tottenham Hotspur became the first UEFA Cup winners.
The one-match finals in pre-selected venues were introduced in 1998. A venue must meet or exceed UEFA Category three standards to host UEFA Cup finals. On two occasions, the final was played at a finalist's home ground: Feyenoord defeated Borussia Dortmund at De Kuip, Rotterdam in 2002, and Sporting CP lost to CSKA Moscow at their own José Alvalade Stadium, Lisbon in 2005.
The winner of the last UEFA Cup final (prior to the competition being rebranded as the UEFA Europa League) was Shakhtar Donetsk on 20 May 2009. The Ukrainian team beat Werder Bremen of Germany 2–1 at Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium, Istanbul, Turkey.
The first ever winner of the rebranded Europa League was Atlético Madrid, beating Premier League side Fulham 2–1 after extra time.