As shamrock rovers kick off their Europa League campaign away to Progres Niederkorn of Luxembourg this evening, they prepare for the game in the knowledge that League of Ireland sides arguably have more to gain than ever by winning in Europe this year.
Rovers, along with the other Irish sides in Europe — Dundalk, UCD, St Pat’s and Cork City — will receive bigger financial incentives than ever for competing in this season’s Europa and Champions League competitions.
That benefit, along with other notable and relevant facts, are listed below…
Dundalk have been handed a difficult Champions League second round qualifying match with Belarusian champions, BATE Borisov — a side who have plenty of experience playing in the Champions League proper in recent times. The ties will take place on the 14/15 & 21/22 July.
- In the Europa League, St Pat’s face Skonto FC (Latvia), Cork City take on KR Reykjavík (Iceland), UCD are up against F91 Dudelange (Luxembourg) and as mentioned already, Shamrock Rovers will prepare to do battle with Progres Niederkorn (Luxembourg). The latter match aside, the first round qualifiers in question will take place on 2 & 9 July.
- While four of the five Irish sides competing qualified via either their league position or a cup triumph (St Pat’s) last season, UCD are in the Europa League thanks to their fair play record. The First Division side were rewarded due to their excellent disciplinary stats, coupled with Ireland’s status among the top three fair play leagues in Europe (England and the Netherlands were the other two countries that benefited from this rule).
- It has been well documented that Irish sides stand to earn more money than ever in Europe this season. Dundalk will receive a minimum of €550,000 from their participation in the Champions League — a substantial increase on the €375,000 earned by St Pat’s for competing in the 2014-15 competition, while being over five times more than the €100,000 Stephen Kenny’s men were given for winning the Airtricity League last season. The fee will rise to €700,000 in total should the Lilywhites beat BATE over two legs and advance to the third round of the competition.
- The Europa League teams will also receive a bigger cash boost than usual, with all teams receiving a minimum of €200,000 merely for qualifying for the competition. In addition, the Irish sides will earn €410,000 or €630,000 respectively, for qualifying for the second or third round of the competition.
- Dundalk are one of 78 teams expected to compete in this season’s Champions League.
- All associations are allocated places in Europe according to their UEFA country coefficients, which takes into account their performance in European competitions from 2009–10 onwards. Of the 54 countries eligible, Ireland are currently ranked 43rd — ahead of Northern Ireland, Wales and Gibraltar, but below Albania, Kazakhstan and Macedonia. Dundalk automatically qualified for the Champions League second round because only teams ranked 47th and under are required to compete in the first round.
- To earn a coveted spot in the Champions League group stages, Dundalk would need to win three two-legged ties, and may face a side as formidable as Lazio, Valencia or Manchester United along the way. Dundalk could also qualify for the Europa League play-off round (as Shamrock Rovers memorably did in 2011-12), if they exit the Champions League at the third round qualifying stage.
- In order to reach the Europa League group stages, the Irish sides in the competition will each need to win four two-legged ties. The sides they could meet prior to the group stages include Borussia Dortmund, Southampton, Sampdoria and Athletic Bilbao.
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