For opponents, it’s a third-rate tournament, far from the glamorous elite level of European football, but the inaugural Europa Conference League kicking off this week has plenty to offer.
Tottenham Hotspur and Jose Mourinho’s Roma are the star attractions in what is the brand new third tier of continental competition.
That may not sound great, but beyond them, this is an opportunity for clubs from some of the continent’s smaller countries to play more matches, earn more money and gain more exposure.
It’s essentially a great idea, even if it might not attract millions of neutral viewers, but why should it?
There is a mix of famous old names and obscure smaller clubs such as Lincoln Red Imps from Gibraltar, who once defeated Celtic in the first leg of a Champions League qualifier.
The creation of the Conference League has been accompanied by the streamlining of the second division of the Europa League, downsized from a bloated 48 teams in the group stage to 32, as in the Champions League.
There are also 32 teams in the Conference League, which offers just one berth to each of Europe’s five major leagues, although there is no Spanish side as future representative Villarreal won the Europa League and qualified for the Champions League as a result.
That leaves Spurs, Roma, Union Berlin from Germany and Rennes from France.
The Netherlands meanwhile has three competing clubs, including former European Cup winner Feyenoord, and the goal is to reach the final on May 25 next year in the compact National Arena in the Albanian capital Tirana.
– The financial rewards –
The financial rewards on offer pale in comparison to the Champions League, with a paltry prize pool of 235 million euros ($278 million, £201 million). In the Champions League, the prize pool is two billion euros.
If you enter the Champions League in the group stage, you are guaranteed a minimum of around 17 million euros, plus prize money per point won and money from your television market, as well as income from gate receipts.
That figure drops drastically for the Europa League and by the time you get into the Conference League, the guaranteed income is only about three million euros.
That’s still a lot for some participating clubs, and it’s increasing significantly as the competition progresses – Tottenham, as the top-ranked participating team, could earn around €20 million by going all out.
While that’s still not a huge amount for one of the top 10 richest clubs in the world with last year’s income of nearly £400m, perhaps Nuno Espirito Santo’s team should focus on the opportunity to acquire a rare piece. to lift silverware.
After all, while a place in the top four in the Premier League should be their priority, Spurs have won nothing but two League Cups in the last 30 years.
Mourinho, who led a club game for the thousandth time last weekend, has won everything there is to win, including two Champions Leagues, the UEFA Cup and the Europa League. on this new trophy, or doesn’t he care?
“I don’t want to lie to you and tell you that I don’t care about this match. It does interest me. I would like to win it,” he said this week.
Roma will start their campaign at home against Bulgaria’s CSKA Sofia, while Spurs will be in France to play Rennes.