Sport

Battle for prestige and money

Published: 12. 4. 2022
Author: Karel Černý
Photo: Photo Shutterstock.com
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When the UEFA started a new international competition – the Europa Conference League – three years ago, many a fan had opinions right away: it is all about money, and playing in such a “non-league” is a disgrace. Yes, it was definitely about money. But from the perspective of Czech teams, the League was a good thing.

Let us talk about the money first. It is simple math – more matches, more screen time, more advertising. Also, a higher chance of having only the very best teams play in the Champions League, bringing in more fans from all over the world, meaning again more income. Subsequently making the second division – the Europa League – more prestigious and valuable.

Battling for position

Even though the fans sniggered and tried to come up with the most demeaning name possible when the new league was announced, they should be happy for it looking back. If it were not for this new league, they would not have to argue with one another about which of our teams will make it into the European cups in all the different threads and comment sections. Truth be told – Sparta, Pilsen, Baník and other fans forgive – there would be no such discussions without Slavia Prague. It is the sole team with the hopes of earning more points for the national coefficient, which determines how many clubs make it into the 2023/2024 season. The 15th position is key, representing the breaking point between Czechia sending four or five teams to the fight for Europe. We are currently battling for this position with Greece, and the meltdown that Slavia had in the final minutes of the match with Austrian LASK Linz, which cost them the victory, is a real shame. The Greek team in the league, PAOK Thessaloniki, ended up winning its match instead, meaning that to equalize the coefficient putting us in 15th place, Slavia now has to win two more games than they do. That currently means making it at least to the Conference League semifinals.

Direct face-off?

This conundrum could have been decided by the quarterfinal draw. You have to admit that it would be rather thrilling if these two teams were faced off fair and square in a fight for the national coefficient. Sadly, it was not to be. Slavia is to play the Dutch Feyenoord Rotterdam, Thessaloniki will duke it out with the French Olympique Marseille. The hopes of a direct face-off still remain, however. The first leg quarterfinal matches are set for April 7, with second leg matches a week later. If Slavia and Thessaloniki both win, they will face off in the semifinals. We must add, however, that all the points these teams gain towards their respective national coefficients are divided by five for the Czech team but by only four for the Greeks (based on the number of teams from each country who played in this year's European cups).

Money

Let us circle back to money for a little while. From the club perspective now rather than that of the UEFA. To be even more precise, the perspective of Slavia. The math is once again simple – if it were to play the exact same way it did this year, but the Conference League did not exist, its treasury would be roughly 160 million CZK lighter. One more little thing – Yira Sor, the new transfer from Baník Ostrava to Slavia signed for 30 million crowns, proved to be, if not absolutely instrumental, at least worth the money. Just by making it to the quarterfinals, the club is now roughly 25 million richer. A comfortable cushion to fund another such purchase, right?

Competitions

The most prestigious competition headed by the UEFA is the Champions League. It was first played in the 1992/1993 season, making a slight format change and replacing the European Cup, which ran from 1955. The second competition is the Europa League, played by all the teams who won their respective national cups and other high-placing teams in the league who did not make it into the CL. This league was established in 1955 as the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, later turning into the UEFA Cup in 1971, its current name came about in 2009. The Conference League is a novelty, this year marking its first season. The finals will take place on May 25, in Albania, specifically in the Tirana Arena Kombëtare.

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