The UEFA Europa Conference League starts for the first time next season, and Gibraltar are currently on course to get an extra European spot as a result of the new tournament.
Photo © Black and Burst
The tournament, announced by UEFA in 2018, has had little to no fanfare around it, but as we get closer to its inaugural season, it is becoming clearer how allocation to the tournament works, and how Gibraltar looks set to benefit, for at least one season.
The team allocation for the 21/22 edition uses the 2020 UEFA Country Coefficients, which takes into account performances from the 15/16 to 19/20 seasons. As it stands, teams ranked from 16th to 50th (excluding Liechtenstein who do not run a league) are granted three spots in the tournament, alongside their usual one Champions League spot – Gibraltar ended the 2020 Coefficient rankings in 49th, and as such seem set to benefit for at least one season by having four teams in European competition.
It was originally expected Gib would have four teams for this season’s qualifiers, which ended for the local teams yesterday, but with UEFA taking the 3rd Europa League spot from the 51st place team, which was Gib, and giving it to the 55th place nation, who only used to have two teams in Europe, that advantage was denied – Lynx were the team who would have theoretically taken the 3rd Europa League spot this summer had UEFA not changed the allocations.
This benefit is at the moment only guaranteed for one season, as Gibraltar are not currently guaranteed to finish in the top 50 spots at the end of this seasons rankings. Gib currently find themselves in 48th, but three nations below them currently have teams still in Europe (Faroe Islands, Montenegro and Estonia). Should the teams from those three nations go on good runs, then Gib may drop to 51st and only have one season of four teams in Europe – however the chances are in Gib’s favour as it would require all 3 nations jumping above them, and they currently enjoy a 1.291 point lead over Estonia, and a 0.791 lead over Montenegro.
As a result, with the 1.5 points per win divided by the four teams they enter in Europe, this would require Montenegrin side Buducnost Podgorica and Estonian side Flora to both qualify for the Europa League Group Stages.
While the confirmed start of the league is not officially known, the news that 4th place could get a European spot (depending on the Rock Cup winner), puts another twist into what could be a highly competitive season this time out.