Often Partisan

Everything you wanted to know about the Europa League but were afraid to ask

Just over fifty days from now, Birmingham City will make their debuts in the Europa League in it’s present incarnation. As with anything in football, there is a raft of rules, dates and whatnot to take in, and it can be hard to keep up. In this post, I hope to answer the bulk of questions that you might have and give you an idea of how it will work.

The big day to look out for is Friday 5th August, which is when the draw for the playoff round will be made and Blues fans will know where they’re going to be playing their tie to get into the Europa League proper. The dates for the playoff round are the 18th and 25th August, and we do not know until the 5th which game will be played away, let alone where. We do know however that we should be seeded.

Seeding is done via a system of coefficients, based on how well a team has done in Europe over the last five years. As Birmingham City haven’t been in Europe since the sixties, we don’t get a club coefficient. However, every team also gets 20% of it’s nation’s coefficient added onto to it’s club coefficient score, and luckily enough England’s nation coefficient is the highest in Europe. Because of this, we’re ranked just outside the top 100 teams in Europe.

Now as you may be aware, the draw for the first and second qualifying rounds has already taken place, using the seeding system. What you might not know is that for the lower round qualifiers, if their opponent’s coefficient is higher than theirs and they beat them, they will take their opponent’s coefficient into the next round. This makes it easy to calculate what the coefficients are likely to be in the playoff round, as this website has done for us, and it shows we are on the seeded half of the list. This is excellent news, because it means we should avoid the big guns in the playoff round, and hopefully will draw a team that isn’t quite as good as us.

If we make it to the group stages, it gets very interesting. There are six games in the group stage, and these are on 15th September, 29th September, 20th October, 3rd November, 30th November or 1st December, and 14th or 15th December. If we make it through to the group stages, no fewer than 10 matches will have to be moved; every Saturday game following a Europa League fixture becomes a Sunday game – which means our trips to Southampton, Nottm Forest, Bristol City, Reading, Cardiff City and Crystal Palace all become a little harder to get to – and the Leeds Utd home, Hull City away, Ipswich Town home and Portsmouth home fixtures all have to be rescheduled in the fixture calendar as they clash with a group stage fixture. You can see why Chris Hughton might not be too happy to qualify.

Like the Premier League, UEFA has a quota system for European competition. Blues will have to submit two lists; an “A” list of players over the age of 21, and a “B” list of players under the age of 21. The “A” list has to include four players who have been attached to Birmingham City for a minimum of three years between the ages of 15 and 21, and four players who have been in the English association for three years between the ages of 15 and 21. If you cannot make those quotas, then you lose squad places equal to the number of quota places you cannot fill.

Currently, Birmingham City only have one over 21 player who has been with us for three years between the age of 15 and 21 – Colin Doyle – and eleven players who fulfil the “national” quota. This means with our current squad as is, we can only have 22 players on our “A” list – we would have 19 the way things stand. Obviously with transfers this is going to change, and it’s something I intend to keep an eye on. The squad lists have to be submitted to UEFA by 8th August for the playoff round, and then by 1st September for the Group stages. Only players who are named on these lists can play for us in Europe; thus any transfer made after 8th August will not be able to become eligible until the group stage, and if we take a loan player outside of the transfer window (as we are able to in the second tier), they won’t be able to become eligible at all unless we make the later stages.

It has to be said, Europe could well and truly mess up our season. As thing stand, we are set to play a minimum of fifty games next season. The fixture calendar is tight as it is, and is going to get slightly chaotic with any advancement in Europe. We’re going to need a bigger squad to be able to rotate through, and the only way to make them eligible for Europe is likely to be to bring in players born after 1st January 1990. Personally, I’m willing to accept that for a prolonged adventure in European competition. This may be our only chance for some time; I’d prefer us not to ape our brethren from across the expressway and go out at the first hurdle. I’m not sure Chris Hughton will see it the same way.

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11 Responses to “Everything you wanted to know about the Europa League but were afraid to ask”

  • JohnR says:

    As much as i would like to see us do well in Europe I think looking at the pro and cons i cannot see the benefit. The fixture congestion, the problems with putting a squad together and the inevitable effect on our league performances after playing in Europe tells me it isn’t worth it. Not only that but the financial incentives aren’t that good either.
    We are going to have enough problems next season without European matches so my view is let’s get out of it as quick as we can.

  • Colin Carberry says:

    Stuff the Championship. I’ve watched Blues since 1966 and never before had the chance to see us play in Europe. I honesty don’t ever expect us to play in Europe again, so this is a genuine once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Blues fans. Blues will get promoted again, one day – we’ve done it more times than any other club in the League, so waiting for a couple of years won’t hurt. There’s no hurry to get back to being Premier League cannon-fodder, just making up the numbers like Villa do, year after year after year after year after year after year – that’s just tedious and a mug’s game. Let’s all go on a European Tour instead, and have something to remember! Being a Bluenose is about the buzz, not the status.

  • Pete Flamingo says:

    thanks for the article…very informative, stand by your keyboards on August 5th

  • Bazzathebluenose says:

    I tend to agree with Colin. I’m not that optimistic about getting back to the Premier League this season unlike some pundits who seem to think we are among the favourites. West Ham and teams like Leeds, Cardiff and Forest yes; but us? Not hopeful at present with the turmoil. I feel it is going to take Chris Hughton more than one season to turn this sack of organic matter around but I will be delighted if I am proved wrong. Yes let’s have a few games in Europe and enjoy it! :-) Making up the numbers for Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea and the like can wait.

    KRO SOTV

  • hammy says:

    hughton has 1 season to get us back in the prem….so to keep his job, that will be his main target…

    we also need the prem money….

    the owners are desparate to be back in the prem….

    we all want to be back in the prem….

    so, lets enjoy the games we DO actually play in, as im sure they will be on tv, but lets not lose sight of where we really want and need to be….

    KRO…

  • John R says:

    If you want adventures in Europe then I suggest Ibiza or Corfu for 2 weeks might be best. The real danger for blues is that the wear and tear on an already depleted squad of players might be terminal. The premiership is where we should be plying our trade. To swap that for a few evenings of self delusion that we are force in Europe sounds a bit like Nero playing while Rome burns.
    My view is that we should play the kids on our Europa League debut. Let them fly our flag with energy and the confidence that comes with youth. If we progress then good luck to them too in the group stage.
    The danger is that otherwise post Christmas we will have a team carrying various niggles, some out with injuries, and others frankly worn out. Bling might sparkle, but its coal that keeps you warm during a long cold winter.

  • Jamie B says:

    I’m going to Corfu in August for a little European advernture of my own, as a little distraction from reality. It should stay that way as what I really need is a promotion at work and more money… So I can go on more holidays later on.
    I’ll be working in September and this time next year I’m going to the Premiership.

  • Cocka says:

    Europa league number one priority…. premier league is boarder line boring!

  • NeilM says:

    Just a little addition to your blog.

    We are currently in the seeded part of the draw as you say, however, if enough of the clubs with higher co-efficients unexpectedly lose in the Champions League 3rd Qualifying round, then we could become unseeded. There are 15 clubs that enter our round from the Champions League, all of these could possibly have higher coefficients, it’s unlikely to happen, but the possibility is there.

    So we SHOULD be seeded, but until after the Champions League 3rd Qualifying round is over, we won’t know 100%.

    Anyway, I think we should have a go at getting to the Group stages for the extra bit of income, then stuff it after that, not that it would be likely we would qualify from any group we would be in anyway, lol.

  • Joey says:

    Villa made it past the group stages in the 08/09 competition before going out to CSKA Moscow in the knock-out stages.

    Even if we draw a poor team I still can’t see us making the group stages let alone the knock-out stages.


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