The 2011/12 UEFA Europa League was launched amid glowing praise for the impressive strides the competition has taken in three years since succeeding the UEFA Cup.
Speaking as host of the first and second qualifying round draws at UEFA headquarters in Nyon on Monday, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino expressed the view that the UEFA Europa League has established itself as a "must-watch moment" for football fans.
"Today's draw today marks the last year in our first three-year cycle of the new UEFA Europa League," he added. "As the cycle draws to a close, we can be very proud of the achievements of this 'new' competition.
"We have redesigned, rebranded and relaunched a fantastic European club competition that has given experience to a great number of clubs right across Europe. It is a competition that provides huge highs and lows for fans across our beautiful continent.
"In football terms, the UEFA Europa League has also delivered. Last year's final was the first UEFA club final between two Portuguese teams. It was at the same time the first ever UEFA final hosted in the Republic of Ireland, at the brand new Dublin Arena. This year the competition will be, as always, wide open."
Mr Infantino continued by reiterating UEFA's stance on respect and fair play. "We remind you that we will come down hard and severely on any incidents either on or off the pitch, from players and fans alike," he said.
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