The UEFA Europa Conference League was met with mixed feelings when it was announced by UEFA in 2019. It is expected to run from the 2021 season to the 2024 season. Considering the existence of the prestigious Champions League and the Europa League, many wondered why another competition was needed. According to UEFA, the aim was to bring more matches for more clubs and more associations.
However, the inaugural edition of the Conference League far exceeded expectations. Due to the rather unpredictable nature of the competition and the chances it brings, it has become highly regarded by those who watch football matches live in detail.
Seeing how the competition has gone through to the semi-finals at the time of writing, we can boldly say that the competition has been positive, especially for the ‘smaller sides’.
In this article, we’ll highlight several ways the UEFA Europa Conference League has done a lot of good for smaller teams, especially at continental level. Before we get into the details, let’s take a quick look at what the Conference League is all about.
What is the UEFA Europa Conference League?
The tournament will naturally be the third tier of European football competition, just behind the Europa League and the Champions League. The sole objective is to give an advantage to the “small teams” in Europe.
The Conference League has an exact similar format to the European League. There will be 32 teams in the group stage and the new competition will stage 141 matches over 15 matchweeks.
A total of 184 teams will have participated during the season. This also allows for good diversity since there would have been at least one team representing each of the 55 associations. Of the total number, 46 of the participating clubs will leave the UEFA Europa League.
With the above in mind, here is the allowance for the 32 teams participating in the competition.
- 17 teams from the main UEFA Europa Conference League places
- 5 teams among the UEFA Europa Conference League champions*
- 10 teams that would have dropped out of the UEFA Europa League play-offs
Now that we know how the tournament works, let’s take a look at three main ways it will benefit lesser teams.
Chance to participate in Europe
It is a known fact that many clubs dream of playing at continental level but may never have that opportunity. Some lower teams are disadvantaged due to their association’s ranking. This is where the Conference League levels the playing field. As this would factor teams from lower regions/rankings into the standings, we can expect to see brand new teams debuting in European competition.
More opportunities for clubs in smaller regions
It is a known fact that football has been dominated by Western Europe lately. If you look at the facts, Champions League and Europa League winners in the past few years have come from England, Spain, France, Germany and Italy. Coincidentally, the domestic leagues in these regions are among the “top five leagues”.
However, the Conference League will allow countries like Estonia, Albania, Finland, Norway, Belarus, Poland and Ukraine to have a good number of participants in the competition. These regions usually only have a few combined Champions League and Europa League representatives. The quarter-final of the current edition saw Roma face Bodo/Glimt in a match that would never have taken place on normal ground.
Good money earned for small clubs
Although the Conference League may not offer close to the Champions League and the Europa League, it’s always a good way for small teams to earn more money through participating cash prizes. More matches also means clubs can sell more tickets and also generate more revenue. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the potential amount to be won by clubs participating in the Conference League.
Europa Conference League prize money
- Eliminated in the first stage of qualification – €150,000
- Eliminated in the second qualifying stage – €350,000
- Eliminated in Stage 3 Qualifying – €550,000
- Eliminated in Playoff stages – €750,000
- After qualifying for the group stage – €2,940,000
- Win a group stage game – €500,000
- Price for a draw in the group stage – €166,000
- Finish top of the group stage – €650,000
- Finish 2nd in the group stage – €325,000
- Qualify for the Round of 16 – €300,000
- Qualify for the Round of 16 – €600,000
- Advance to the quarter-finals – €1,000,000
- Advance to the semi-final – €2,000,000
- Finish second – €3,000,000
- Win the contest – €5,000,000
Using this season as a benchmark, €1,164,000 is the lowest amount a team can earn after a group stage campaign, as we saw with Randers. This means that the lowest possible amount a Conference League champion can earn will be €13,329,000. For small sides, this amount could help them a lot.
On the other hand, the highest amount a Conference League champion can earn (if they win all six of their group stage matches) will be around €15,190,000.