Study: Playing in Europe does not hinder league form

The CIES Football Observatory in Neuchatel, Switzerland, has recently conducted a study that suggests participation in UEFA club competitions does not have a negative impact on domestic league results.

Taking the last six seasons as a sample size, the research considered results over the short, medium and long term to measure the impact that playing in the UEFA Champions League or UEFA Europa League can have on domestic performance.

Short term
A comparison of teams’ domestic league results achieved five days before or after a UEFA club match with their other results achieved in the respective domestic league

  • Over the six-year period, teams in UEFA club competitions picked up 1.74 points per match in domestic league games played within five days of a UEFA club competition match – the same number as when they do not have a UEFA club competition match within five days. When the timeframe is reduced to three days only, the average actually increases to 1.81 points per game.

Medium term
A comparison of domestic league results while teams are active in UEFA club competition with the remaining phase of the season after elimination from UEFA club competition

  • Analysing the last six seasons of data, the average points per game for teams while active in UEFA club competitions is 1.68. This compares favourably with the 1.61 points per game average for all matches after teams have been eliminated from competition. Although the gap is not significant, this clearly demonstrates that participating in UEFA club competitions does not have an adverse effect on league form while active in competition.

Long term
Over a longer timeframe, the report analyses whether teams subsequently qualified for UEFA club competitions the following season

  • The percentage of teams that qualify for UEFA club competitions the following seasons from among the UEFA Champions League group stage participants is more than 90% over the six-year period. The percentage of UEFA Europa League group stage participants qualifying for UEFA club competitions the following season was 69.1%. An additional statistic looking at the number of matches played by sides in UEFA club competitions also shows no negative effect on domestic league results. Teams playing six UEFA club competition matches averaged 2.04 points per game, while teams playing 12 matches averaged 2.03 points, and teams playing more than 12 had 1.97 points per game.

Giorgio Marchetti, UEFA director of competitions
The study from the International Centre for Sports Studies reiterates that UEFA club competition and domestic competition go hand in hand. Contrary to conventional wisdom, all evidence shows that UEFA club competition participation does not have a negative impact on domestic league performance.

The evidence suggests that league form does not suffer when matches are played in conjunction with European duties. In addition, elimination from the UEFA Champions League or UEFA Europa League does not improve results achieved at domestic league level – instead clubs seem to do worse in their domestic leagues after they are knocked out.

Overall, the research is a strong encouragement to consider participation in UEFA club competitions as an opportunity which goes along very well with domestic duties.

Raffaele Poli, Head of CIES Football Observatory
The study commissioned by UEFA allowed us to test the impact of participation in European competitions on the results achieved in the league. The assumption was that European games negatively affect league performance. This idea is indeed often relayed by the management and coaches of clubs.

We were surprised that this is not the case. Research clearly shows that there is no negative impact whatsoever in the short term (championship games before or after European matches); medium term (between semesters [halves of the season] for teams eliminated after the group stage); and throughout the season (qualification for next season).

The idea that participation in European competitions affects championship performance is shown to be more myth than reality, both for the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League.

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