From 2015/16, UEFA Europa League winners will be rewarded with a place in the next season's UEFA Champions League play-offs and could even go straight into the group stage.
The UEFA Executive Committee approved changes to the access list of the UEFA club competitions for the 2015–18 cycle at its meeting in London this week.
The UEFA Europa League winners will be granted access to the play-offs of the subsequent UEFA Champions League season. The UEFA Europa League winners could even gain direct access to the group stage should the UEFA Champions League title holders also qualify via their domestic league, thus freeing up a place in the UEFA Champions League group stage.
As an effect of the UEFA Europa League winners qualifying for the UEFA Champions League, the current limit of a maximum four teams per association will be increased to five.
"As was proven with this year's magnificent final, the UEFA Europa League has gone from strength to strength, but we wanted to give clubs a further incentive, so that all of them play with a desire to win the competition," UEFA President Michel Platini said. "By guaranteeing access to the UEFA Champions League for the winners, we are convinced that the UEFA Europa League will increase its appeal for clubs and their supporters."
"It is the role of the President of UEFA to reflect on the future UEFA competitions," said Mr Platini after the XXXVII Ordinary UEFA Congress in London on Friday. "We began discussions with all the football family a number of years ago, and the final decision came two days ago from the UEFA Club Competitions Committee, which was ratified by the Executive Committee and then presented to all the national associations. I wanted to improve the Europa League, and this was decided by the football family as a whole."
"We think that these changes will have a huge impact in terms of boosting the Europa League, and will also have an impact on the national leagues," said UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino. "Because when the Europa League becomes even more exciting, entertaining and interesting, the competition to qualify for the Europa League will also suddenly become more exciting and interesting."
Further changes were made to the access list, whereby, in principle, all associations will now have a maximum three teams entering the UEFA Europa League. In addition, the number of teams directly qualifying for the group stage will be increased to 16 teams from the top 12 associations (compared with the current six teams from the top six associations).
The UEFA Executive Committee also approved the full centralisation of commercial rights as from the group stage onwards (compared with the current full centralisation from the knockout stage onwards).