As it enters its second season, the UEFA Europa League is set to reinforce its reputation as a major European club competition.
Addressing the qualifying play-off draw in Nyon on Friday, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino stressed that the competition's inaugural season in 2009/10 fulfilled all expectations. "Thanks to the new format, the fresh look and feel, the clear pattern of kick-off times and the more extensive television coverage, the first season of the UEFA Europa League was a great success and [the competition] is now seeking consolidation," he said.
"[That] success was made possible by the buy-in of the clubs, and with this powerful support we are ready to continue developing this fantastic competition until we see the UEFA Europa League as an established and universally-recognised elite competition such as only the extraordinary resources of European club football can produce."
Last season 24 national associations were represented in the group stage. "With such a large variety of clubs coming from across the different regions of the 53 UEFA member associations, the Europa League symbolises better than any other competition the incredible spread and competitive level of club football across Europe," said Mr Infantino
"This is something very encouraging and we hope that even more new teams with their supporters come on board to live with us this exciting adventure."
The UEFA general secretary asked clubs to play matches in a spirit of respect and fair play for opponents, their fans and match officials. "This time, let me add a few words to say that respect for the game and respect for the opponents means also having a healthy and correct approach to financial leverage, competing with your own means, and adopting a transparent and accurate governance and financial practice.
"For this reason, UEFA decided a few years ago to introduce the club licensing system and is now launching the new financial fair play rules. These systems are set to ensure the stability of clubs and to protect the fairness of our competitions. We are happy that these rationales are well understood and that both club licensing and financial fair play enjoy widespread support from clubs and leagues," Mr Infantino concluded.
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