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One of Europe's most historic club competitions is being given a total makeover in 2009 with the UEFA Cup, which was launched in the 1971/72 season, becoming the UEFA Europa League from the start of 2009/10.
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One of European football's most historic competitions is being given a total makeover in 2009. The UEFA Cup, which was launched in the 1971/72 season, is to become the UEFA Europa League for the beginning of the 2009/10 campaign as work continues to enhance the image and profile of European club football's second club competition.
The competition will have a new 48-team group stage with centralised marketing of media rights, a presenting sponsor and an official match ball. It will also have centralised sponsorship from the knockout stage and a new logo and visual identity. The revamping of the competition follows the decision by the UEFA Executive Committee on 30 November 2007 to alter the format of the UEFA Cup and create a group stage in which teams play each other on a home-and-away basis.
The new name and logo is designed to emphasise the special character and unique sporting appeal of a competition that has proved its worth over more than three decades. Europa is an ancient Greek word which is understandable in all languages. UEFA's ambition in making 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. "We believe that a new name and a new brand identity will help with sponsors and with the whole identity of the competition," UEFA General Secretary David Taylor told uefa.com when the new name was announced at the UEFA Executive Committee meeting in Bordeaux in September.
The UEFA Europa League will feature 204 matches plus the final. The group stage will comprise 48 sides, split into 12 groups of four. The top two teams in each group will qualify for the knockout phase and will be joined by the eight clubs that finish the group stage of the UEFA Champions League in third place. The knockout stage, with 32 sides and four rounds, will lead to the final, played in a single match at a neutral venue. There will be four qualifying rounds instead of the current two, with an increased number of clubs as a result of the incorporation of places from the discontinued UEFA Intertoto Cup.
UEFA Europa League ties will be played on a Thursday night – or on a Wednesday night during exclusive UEFA Europa League weeks – with two kick-off times, in principle at 19.00 and 21.05CET according to local situations. The final will take place on a Wednesday at 20.45CET.