UEFA's Executive Committee today approved the change of name for the UEFA Cup to the UEFA Europa League from 2009/10, with UEFA President Michel Platini certain a new format "will improve this historic competition".
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The new name heralds major changes to the competition, which will have a new 48-team group stage with centralised marketing of broadcast rights, a presenting sponsor and an official matchball in addition to centralised sponsorship from the knockout stage and a new logo and visual identity. UEFA President Michel Platini said: "These changes will improve this historic competition, which is very important for UEFA and for European football as it gives more fans, players and clubs the thrill of European club football. I am convinced the new format will give the UEFA Europa League a successful new impetus."
The changes to the name, logo and brand identity of the competition are the next logical step following the decision to alter the format of the UEFA Cup and create a true group stage, with both home and away matches. That decision was taken by the UEFA Executive Committee in Lucerne, Switzerland, back in December 2007. The change of name better represents the format of the competition and with the enhancements to the logo and brand, the changes are such that from the 2009/10 season the UEFA Cup will effectively become a new competition.
The new name and logo will help underline the tournament's special character and unique sporting appeal. The fresh format will encourage teams from emerging countries or lesser-known sides to challenge the old order, and the new identity will seek to reflect that. UEFA's ambition in making all these changes is to rejuvenate the competition in the light of the new European football landscape, which has shifted significantly with the continued success of the UEFA Champions League, so that the UEFA Europa League can establish itself as a major competition.
"First and foremost, [the decision] is about timing," UEFA General Secretary David Taylor told uefa.com. "We've got a new competition and a new format for 2009-12, with centralisation of the group stage and with the group stage being much more similar to the UEFA Champions League format – whereby teams will play home and away. We have an opportunity to change the marketing [of the competition].
"The UEFA Cup has been an excellent tournament over the years, but in some senses it has suffered a little bit [through] being a different tournament and not having the same prestige as the [UEFA] Champions League. We believe that a new name and a new brand identity will help with sponsors and with the whole identity of the competition."